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Obamacare repeal and replace will hurt Nevada, Sandoval says

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Wednesday a U.S. Senate plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act remains a major threat to Nevada’s future fiscal health.

The governor said with no proposed changes that would address Nevada’s decision in 2013 to expand Medicaid, he cannot support the legislation. Sandoval said both he and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller remain opposed as they announced at an event in Las Vegas last month.

“My position is the same in terms of protecting the 200,000-plus lives of the newly eligibles associated with the Medicaid expansion,” Sandoval said. “They are living healthier and happier lives. We have cut our uninsured rate by more than half.

“As I sit here today, there hasn’t been anything presented to me that would alleviate that concern.”

Heller is considered to be a crucial Republican vote to get the Senate’s health care measure passed, but he announced his opposition with Sandoval because of the cost to the state if changes to the funding formula for the expanded Medicaid population are put in place.

Heller is up for reelection next year and is considered vulnerable. His opposition to the bill drew attacks from Republicans.

Sandoval said he has been on the phone with Vice President Mike Pence, members of the Senate and others in the Trump administration on an Obamacare replacement.

Sandoval in 2013 opted to expand the cover to childless adults, and the federal government is paying more than 90 percent of the cost of their care. That percentage would drop to 65 percent in the Senate bill starting in 2021, costing the state up to $500 million over five years.

A future governor would have to raise taxes or end the coverage, moves Sandoval called “an untenable position for the state.”

The Medicaid issue is aside from the recent announcement that the Silver State Health Exchange has no carriers lined up for 2018 that are willing to offer insurance in 14 rural counties. Sandoval said he and his staff continue to work with the insurance companies to address the issue.

One insurer cited uncertainty at the federal level over potential health care changes for the reason not to offer the coverage.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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