Sandoval says overhaul of Affordable Care Act remains a top concern for governors

Updated February 25, 2017 - 5:33 pm

WASHINGTON — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said Saturday he would take his concerns about the overhaul of the Affordable Care Act to Capitol Hill where lawmakers are mulling over various proposals to replace Obamacare.

The nation’s governors, in town for their annual meeting, are expected to spend Monday talking with Republican leaders and members of Congress about repeal and replacement of the health care act.

Many states, including Nevada, broadened Medicaid programs to take advantage of federal funds to help insure more elderly and poor. Officials in those states are concerned about how the federal government will continue its funding commitment for the expanded programs.

About 32 million people receive their health care through exchanges created under the health care act, and Medicaid expansion, according to the Urban Institute.

Sandoval said congressional overhaul of the ACA is a top concern for governors and that the “conversation is ongoing.”

“There are still a lot of different rumors and speculation on what those changes may be, and that’s what I need to understand,” he said.

Congressional proposals for Medicaid funding have included block grants to states, and per capita grants. Sandoval said last month that governors want to be part of the discussion as lawmakers move forward with repeal and replacement plans.

Sandoval, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, also met with Graco Ramirez, the governor of the Mexican state of Morelos and the president of the Mexican Governors Conference, about the North American Free Trade Agreement and immigration policy.

President Donald Trump has stepped up efforts to deport undocumented immigrants, build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and renegotiate NAFTA, the 1993 trade agreement that lowered trade barriers between the two countries and Canada.

On Trump’s proposals, Sandoval said: “I’m not going to weigh in on treaties and such.”

“I’ve led a trade mission to Mexico, it was very successful,’” he said. “The state of Nevada has a great relationship with Mexico.”

Ramirez, speaking through an interpreter, said that while the president wants to build walls, governors in the United States and Mexico want to build bridges.

A CALL FOR COOPERATION

The Morelos governor said he was speaking to his U.S. counterparts to foster cooperation that will increase trade and create jobs in both countries. He said both countries must collaborate on immigration, because the countries’ economies are interdependent.

Ramirez said Mexico is the country of origin for the majority of foreign visitors to the state of Nevada.

According to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Mexico is the second-largest market, behind Canada, for international visitors to Las Vegas. In 2015, 2.7 million Mexican visitors came to the city.

To facilitate trade and visitation to Nevada, Sandoval and the state’s congressional delegation have called U.S Interstate 11 a top priority. The interstate, when completed, would run from Nogales, Arizona through Phoenix, to Las Vegas, Reno and, eventually, Canada.

Trump has pledged a $1 trillion infrastructure program to jolt the economy and create jobs.

Congress designated I-11 as a priority corridor in 2012 but didn’t include funding.

Construction has begun on only one segment of the interstate in Nevada, a 15-mile piece extending between U.S. Highway 95 on Henderson’s southern border and U.S. Highway 93 near the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge. That stretch of construction is expected to be completed next year.

Ramirez said I-11’s completion would provide a direct route for transport of goods and travel by tourists from Mexico to Nevada.

The nation’s governors are meeting to discuss infrastructure projects, health care reform, early childhood education and cybersecurity during its winter meeting that ends Monday.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, NGA chairman, said 46 governors and 1,200 registered guests were attending this year’s conference, a record attendance.

“There is a lot of interest in what is going on here in Washington and on the state level,” McAuliffe said.

The governors and their spouses will attend a White House dinner on Sunday.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-622-7390, or gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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