Repeal and Replace 2.0: Sandoval expresses concern, Heller promises review

GOP Health Bill (MGN Online)

Senate Republicans unveiled their revised Obamacare replacement on Thursday, and while it contains some changes to the original proposal, it contains a key element Nevada’s top two Republicans oppose: cuts to Medicaid, which is the program that helps low-income and needy Americans.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, in Rhode Island for the National Governor’s Association meeting, told the Nevada Independent not much has changed from the first bill, which gives him “great concern.”

In a statement Thursday, Sandoval’s office said:

“The Governor has instructed his staff, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Nevada Health Insurance Exchange to begin reviewing the latest version.”

“The Governor’s office is in daily contact with Senator Heller’s office, as well as many federal representatives and we will continue to work through the details with state and national partners,” says spokesperson Mari N. St. Martin.

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Sandoval was the first Republican governor to sign-on to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, bringing coverage to more than 200,000 Nevadans. Because the first GOP plan sharply curtailed Medicaid funding, Sandoval and Heller announced their opposition June 23.

The opposition from Heller and other GOP senators was the reason the first measure was revised to include more funding to help people afford premiums, more money to fight opioid abuse, and it kept some of Obamacare’s taxes on high-income earners. But the Medicaid cuts continue, which may make Heller’s – and Sandoval’s support – difficult to get.

“Conversations are continuing and I’m going to read the new bill and weigh its impact on Nevada,” Heller told News 3 today in a statement.

Any cut in Medicaid funding is really bad news for the FIRSTMED Health + Wellness Center on Shadow Lane in Las Vegas.

“85-percent are Medicaid. They're either under employed or unemployed,” says CEO Angela Quinn, telling me about the patients she sees.

We were here a year ago for the opening. A year and almost 4,000 patients later, Quinn’s clinic is expanding. A cut to Medicaid could force cuts.

“If this bill gets passed, and we lose the funding, we might not be able to continue serving those who are low income or no income,” says Nurse Practitioner Mariafe Vital.

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That would include people like David McGregor, whom I met at the clinic Thursday. At FIRSTMED, he finally found treatment he can afford.

“Without it I wasn't getting the X-rays, and the blood work - I haven't been to a doctor in years, you know,” McGregor told me.

Supporters of the Republican approach say something must be done to reign-in what they call skyrocketing premiums under Obamacare. They also say something has to be done about entitlement reform and that Medicaid spending must be brought under control.

Nevada’s Democrats were not impressed. Rep. Dina Titus, who’s considering a 2018 challenge to Heller, said, “Trumpcare’s latest iteration is a tortured attempt to keep a bad bill on life support.”

“The bill unveiled today is just as much a sham as the ones that preceeded it,” says Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

The bill’s first test will be whether the Senate approves bringing it to the floor for consideration next week.

Heller told an NBC reporter he was undecided how he will vote on the motion to proceed. With two other Republican senators indicating they may vote “no” if Heller – or any other Republican – does the same, it would kill the measure.

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