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Trump says upcoming health vote is GOP’s chance “to keep their promise”

Updated July 24, 2017 - 6:35 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump badgered Republican senators Monday to vote on a health care bill this week, while Nevada nurses, hospitals and religious groups told lawmakers the results would have dire consequences for the state.

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare,” Trump said from the White House.

Trump stepped up his prodding of Republican senators, who are expected to vote Tuesday on a parliamentary measure to begin debate. But opposition to Senate Republican plans to health care also increased.

A new report said Medicaid cuts in the Senate health-care bill could cost Nevada $16 billion in lost funds, prompting the Nevada Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada to oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

And 7,150 Catholic Sisters from all 50 states sent a letter to the Senate asking them to reject the bill and any efforts to repeal the ACA, known as Obamacare.

“We have seen early and avoidable deaths because of a lack of insurance, prohibitive costs and lack of quality health care,” said Sister Simone Campbell who authored the letter.

But Trump used his social media account and delivered a stern message from the White House warning GOP senators that failure to take action on Obamacare, either through repeal or replacing the law, would have political consequences.

Republicans have vowed for seven years to throw out Obamacare, which was passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010 without one GOP vote.

Trump said for Senate Republicans, the vote “is their chance to keep their promise.”

Since taking control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans have struggled to follow through with their pledge to toss out the law that expanded coverage to millions of people, imposed taxes to fund new programs and prevented insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Pressure on Dean Heller

No one has felt the pressure to repeal and replace the law more than Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare, but has found himself opposing Republican leaders who also want to rewrite Medicaid laws and curtail an expansion of that program that provided coverage for 200,000 Nevadans.

Heller opposed an earlier version of the Senate health care bill because of Medicaid cuts. He has not said publicly how he will vote on the motion to proceed to the bill.

He, like other GOP senators whose states expanded Medicaid, are worried that reductions in federal funding will shift the cost burden to states and make it difficult to offer insurance coverage to those who are now enrolled.

Others in the Senate oppose portions of the replacement bill because it leaves intact some of the Obamacare mandates and taxes. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants a vote on a strict repeal of the ACA.

Republicans hold a 52-48 majority. Although they need just a simple majority to move a bill to the floor for debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has found it difficult to find the votes that would allow debate to begin.

The math became a little easier late Monday when Arizona Sen. John McCain’s office annouced he will return to the Senate on Tuesday to vote on GOP health care legislation just days after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Last week, three centrist GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — said they would not vote to proceed on a bill to repeal Obamacare without an alternative replacement.

McConnell announced Monday from the Senate floor that the chamber would vote on the motion to proceed to the bill on Tuesday, though senators were uncertain late Monday which bill would be offered. If debate begins, McConnell said lawmakers would have an opportunity to offer amendments.

Democrats favor a fix

Democrats are united in their opposition of repeal of Obamacare, instead favoring a bipartisan approach to fix the current system and shore up public exchanges that provide insurance coverage in states.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said a vote to proceed on the bill is a vote to repeal, since GOP leaders had yet to finalize legislation. Cortez Masto used a conference call with reporters Monday to unveil 183 local and national groups who have come out in opposition to Senate health care proposals.

Among those groups are the Nevada Hospital Association, the Southern Nevada Health District, the Washoe County Health District and the Nevada chapter of the National Physicians Alliance.

The senators also cited a new report by AARP that showed Nevada could face cuts of up to $16 billion by 2026 under the proposed Senate legislation.

“This new report found worse cuts to the state’s Medicaid funding than expected,” Cortez Masto said. “Medicaid has been successful in Nevada and has served as a lifeline to many, including low-income families, women, children, veterans and seniors.”

Denise Ogletree with the American Nurses Association said the cuts under Republicans would leave 30,000 children without health care services currently attained through Medicaid.

And Bill Welch, president and CEO of the Nevada Hospital Association, said the Medicaid cuts would be devastating to Nevada, a state with one of highest rates of uninsured before the ACA was passed and Medicaid expanded.

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

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