GOP pushes last-ditch health care bill but Democratic opposition grows

WASHINGTON — A last-ditch Republican bill to repeal Obamacare was still short of GOP votes Monday and faced increased opposition from Democrats like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who said the legislation would take Nevada “backwards.”

Cortez Masto, citing a study by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the GOP bill crafted by four Republican lawmakers would roll back Medicaid expansion coverage gains under Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“The latest ill-conceived Republican effort would end Medicaid as we know it,” Cortez Masto said.

The CBPP analysis found the bill would reduce federal Medicaid spending in Nevada by $639 million over a decade and weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“This means less care and higher costs for families, seniors and rural hospitals in our state,” Cortez Masto said.

The legislation was unveiled last week by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

The bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and replace it with one that would eliminate penalties for people who do not have individual plans.

The legislation would also give federal funds to states in block grants to craft health care packages for individuals without government- or employer-sponsored plans.

Heller said last week the bill was advantageous to Nevada, where 80,000 people paid tax penalties instead of buying insurance as required under Obamacare. Nearly half of those, he said, made less than $50,000 a year.

The plan would also increase federal health care spending in Nevada by 30 percent through reductions in federal spending in other states, most notably New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and California, Heller said.

Republican supporters of the bill have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to ask the Congressional Budget Office to fast-track a cost analysis to allow a vote before Sept. 30 under budget rules that require a simple majority to pass the legislation.

The bill appeared to pick up a big endorsement Monday, when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, backed the effort.

But several key Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are still weighing the bill. Some are supporting an effort by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to craft legislation to stabilize insurance markets and allow more time for a bipartisan approach to health care reform.

The bill also has GOP opponents. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reiterated his opposition Monday, saying the bill fails to fully repeal Obamacare, leaving taxes in place to fund coverage.

Sandoval and other governors also have voiced concerned about Medicaid cuts in the plan. The proposal would end the Medicaid expansion that occurred under Obamacare.

The White House has endorsed the bill, with President Donald Trump calling it the best chance for the Senate to approve legislation that can be reconciled with a House bill that passed earlier this year.

Two previous GOP health care bills died in the Senate when McConnell was unable to muster the votes needed to pass the legislation.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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