Pence tells gov­er­nors bill spells exit of ‘Oba­macare’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - JEN­NIFER MCDER­MOTT

PROV­I­DENCE, R. I. — Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence told gov­er­nors of more than two dozen states Fri­day that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump be­lieves the re­vised health care bill be­fore the U. S. Se­nate is the “right bill at the right time to be­gin the end of Oba­macare,” re­fer­ring to the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act.

“The pres­i­dent said he wanted a health care sys­tem that in his words is far less ex­pen­sive and far bet­ter,” the Repub­li­can vice pres­i­dent said at a gath­er­ing of the Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, ahead of an ad­dress by Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. “We be­lieve the Se­nate health care bill be­gins to make the pres­i­dent’s vi­sion a re­al­ity.”

Pence urged gov­er­nors to sup­port it.

But sev­eral gov­er­nors at the meet­ing — both Demo­crat and Repub­li­can — ex­pressed con­cern or op­po­si­tion about the bill.

Sev­eral Demo­cratic gov­er­nors gath­ered ear­lier Fri­day to pub­licly crit­i­cize the re­vised health care bill, which was re­leased Thurs­day. They spoke about how unwinding the Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion cre­ated by the Af­ford­able Care Act would hurt their states.

Mon­tana Gov. Steve Bul­lock, a Demo­crat, said Repub­li­cans in Congress are “still try­ing to put lip­stick on a pig, but guess what? It’s still a pig.”

Rhode Is­land Gov. Gina Rai­mondo, an­other Demo­crat, said she plans to voice strong op­po­si­tion to Pence when she meets with him pri­vately.

“It’s on ev­ery­one’s minds,” Rai­mondo said. “It’s what’s in ev­ery pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion. There’s a high de­gree of anx­i­ety. Even Repub­li­can gov­er­nors will say that they’re wor­ried, es­pe­cially the ones that have taken the Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion.”

Repub­li­can Gov. Brian San­doval of Ne­vada, one of the states that ex­panded its Med­i­caid pro­gram, said he’s al­ready told Pence that he’s con­cerned about pro­tect­ing peo­ple newly el­i­gi­ble for Med­i­caid. He plans to re­it­er­ate those con­cerns to Pence and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price.

“And I’m sure that they’re go­ing to come back to me and ex­plain why they feel like those in­di­vid­u­als that are re­ceiv­ing Med­i­caid now, the newly el­i­gi­bles, won’t be harmed,” he said. “It’s my obli­ga­tion to hear them out, which is what I will do.”

Repub­li­can Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell plans to keep in place Med­i­caid cuts that GOP gov­er­nors and Se­nate mod­er­ates have ob­jected to. No Democrats are sup­port­ing the plan.

The lat­est changes are geared to­ward in­creas­ing ac­cess to bare-bones pri­vate in­sur­ance. There’s also an ad­di­tional $45 bil­lion to help states con­fronting the opi­oid epi­demic. Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina called that fund­ing a “fig leaf.” Many of the “flimsy” poli­cies that will be al­lowed un­der the leg­is­la­tion wouldn’t cover sub­stance abuse treat­ment, he said.

“What it is go­ing to cost us to get out of this opi­oid cri­sis is sig­nif­i­cant, and health care cov­er­age is im­por­tant to that process,” Cooper said. “This needs to be a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort, just like we’re work­ing on the opi­oid fight in a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort.”

Pence in­tro­duced Trudeau, say­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is look­ing for­ward to rene­go­ti­at­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment in a way that will equally ben­e­fit the U.S. and Canada.

AP/STEPHAN SAVOIA

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence speaks Fri­day dur­ing a Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing in Prov­i­dence, R.I.

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