8 to 10 Republicans have concerns on bill
Montana’s double quandary
WASHINGTON, July 17, (Agencies): Eight to 10 Republican US senators have serious concerns about Republican healthcare legislation to roll back Obamacare, moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins, who opposes the bill, said on Sunday.
The Senate, which is delaying its consideration of the bill while Arizona Republican Senator recuperates from surgery to remove a blood clot, will take it up as soon as all senators are available, Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican senator, said.
McCain’s absence casts doubt on whether the Senate would be able to pass legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic former president Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, commonly known as Obamacare.
Collins is one of two Republican senators who have already said that they would not even vote to open debate on the latest version of the bill released on Thursday, meaning one more defection from the Republican ranks could kill it..
Republicans control the Senate by a 52-48 margin. With the Democrats solidly opposed to the legislation, the Republicans can only pass the bill if all their other members back it and if Republican Vice President Mike Pence casts his tie-breaking vote in favor.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll published on Sunday showed Americans preferred Obamacare by a 2-1 margin. Approaching six months in office, Trump’s overall approval rating has dropped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April.
While Collins said that she did not know if the legislation would ultimately pass, she said as many as 10 Republicans have doubts about it.
“There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill,” Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union” program, faulting the bill for its major cuts to the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor, which she said would harm rural hospitals and nursing homes.
“I don’t know whether it will pass, but I do know this, we should not be making fundamental changes in a vital safety net program that’s been on the books for 50 years — the Medicaid program — without having a single hearing to evaluate what the consequences are going to be,” she added.
Republican Senator Rand Paul also reiterated his opposition to the bill, which he described as “terrible” because it retained many of the Obamacare taxes and subsidies.
“The current system is terrible,” Paul said on Fox News Sunday. “I don’t think Republicans should put their name on this. It is a bad political strategy and it will not fix the problem.”
The bill unwinds Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion over three years, from 2021 to 2024. But it goes beyond repealing Obamacare by imposing drastic cuts to Medicaid that deepen in 2025.
For all the uncertainty over the fate of a healthcare overhaul in Washington, tens of thousands of Montana’s working poor are already in a double quandary: Even if Congress leaves Medicaid expansion mostly intact, the future of the state’s program remains uncertain.
Gov who counts Medicaid expansion as a key achievement in his first term, has less than two years to justify its continuation. The program is scheduled to end in 2019 if state lawmakers decline to renew it during the legislative session that starts in January of that year.
Among the 31 states with expanded Medicaid, Montana’s program is unique. As part of a grand bargain to placate moderate Republicans in the conservative-leaning state, Bullock and his fellow Democrats agreed to charge most enrollees premiums and co-pays, establish a jobs program intended to help able-bodied Medicaid recipients find good-paying work, and seek reauthorization.
While Montana Democrats tout their state’s plummeting number of medically uninsured — from 20 percent of the population in 2013 to 7 percent last year — the number of Medicaid enrollees has far exceeded expectations, and some worry the program cannot be sustained.
Since it took effect in January of last year, nearly 80,000 of Montana’s 1 million residents have enrolled. The state had projected only 33,000 by this time.
A US Senate bill to replace the administration’s health care law would phase out, over several years, the federal money given to states to expand Medicaid. That might not be soon enough for conservative Montana lawmakers who are eager to revisit the expansion program when the session reconvenes in 2019.
“So, is this thing really working?” said state Sen a Republican from the western Montana town of Bigfork. “I’m from the state of Missouri at this point in time — show me.”
Keenan and other critics are skeptical the state is doing enough to get people into jobs — and off Medicaid — in the program’s second year.
“The spin right now is that conservative Republicans are going to take something away,” Keenan said. “That’s not me. For now, I’m just sitting back and waiting to see if they can justify the program.”
Even the lead sponsor of the bill that authorized expansion is raising concern that the higher-than-expected number of enrollees could be unsustainable and that state officials need to be more aggressive with the program’s job training component.