WASHINGTON, U.S. - As a decisive week for the controversial healthcare legislation looms, the White House launched an aggressive drive on Friday to persuade key Republican governors to stop criticising the Senate proposal for the healthcare overhaul.
The White House has reportedly begun pressuring Republican governors in public and private ahead of the crucial vote.
However, despite the various strategies employed, four influential governors have reiterated their concerns about the bill’s impact on their states’ most vulnerable individuals.
After Vice President Mike Pence delivered a detailed speech to the National Governors Association defending the bill, along with Trump’s health and human services secretary, Tom Price and the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma addressed governors both on and off the record on Friday.
Offering a detailed pitch contrasting with the more general and sometimes contradictory rhetoric Trump has delivered on health care, their address was met with rebukes from health advocates.
In his speech, Pence said Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid put “far too many able-bodied adults” on the program.
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) pointed out, “I’ve still got to come back to my concerns with regard to the Medicaid population.”
Sandoval’s views, along with those of John Kasich of Ohio, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, all of whose states expanded Medicaid under the ACA, could prove decisive in determining whether the Senate passes legislation next week.
Reports pointed out that Republican senators from these states are closely watching how their governors respond to the newly revamped legislation as they decide whether to support it next week.
He added, “I know Governor Kasich isn’t with us, but I suspect that he’s very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.”
Kasich however, issued a statement calling the revised Senate plan “still unacceptable” because of its Medicaid cuts and possible impact on the private ACA insurance market.
Meanwhile, Jon Keeling, Kasich’s spokesman said in an interview that Pence’s suggestion that 60,000 disabled Ohioans remain on waiting lists “is not accurate,” adding that to suggest Medicaid expansion hurt the state’s developmentally disabled “system is false, as it is just the opposite of what actually happened.”
Further, Families USA’s senior director of health policy, Eliot Fishman said, “That waiting list is nothing new, and to attribute it to expansion is absurd.”
Reports pointed out that the Senate Republican proposal would cut $772 billion from Medicaid over the next decade by phasing out the expansion population, and it make even deeper cuts starting in 2025.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), by 2036, the government would spend 35 percent less on Medicaid than under the current law.
Further, reports noted that among the GOP senators who have questioned aspects of the Senate proposal, at least half a dozen hail from Medicaid-expansion states.
The CBO has said that under the Senate bill, roughly 15 million Medicaid recipients would lose coverage within a decade.
Now, the CBO is expected to provide an updated score on the revised legislation next week.
However, Trump officials are arguing that the administration can cushion the bill’s financial blow to the states through a combination of legislative provisions and administrative measures.
GOP leaders have no margin for error as they seek to convince several wavering senators to embrace the Senate plan.
While Pence is prepared to cast the tie-breaking vote - 50 out of 52 Republican senators would have to approve the measure for it to pass.
So far, two senators, conservative Rand Paul of Kentucky and centrist Susan Collins from Maine have already said they object to voting on the bill in its current form.
Meanwhile, a third, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Thursday that the proposal did not address the concerns his governor has raised and that he would seek to change it.
Trump recently said he would be “angry” if the bill fails and compared the effort of brokering a deal in the Senate to the quest for Mideast peace.