Despite misgivings about the closed-door process used to write a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact on rural health care providers, Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran joined his Kansas counterpart, Pat Roberts, in voting to begin debate on the legislation.
In a statement released Tuesday, Moran said he has for years been “committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
“I will continue, however, to strongly oppose the BCRA (Better Care Reconciliation Act),” he said, referring to the Senate’s replacement bill, which he said failed to “adequately repeal Obamacare” or address rising health care costs.
Demonstrators in the U.S. Senate gallery shouted, “kill the bill” and “don’t kill us, kill the bill,” as voting began Tuesday. Guards quickly removed them, but their chants echoed in the hallway outside the chamber as the voting proceeded.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain made a dramatic return to the Capitol to vote in favor of the motion. Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote, breaking a 50-50 tie.
Members on both sides of the aisle greeted McCain — whom doctors diagnosed with a brain tumor last week — with applause as he entered the chamber.
After the vote, McCain urged his colleagues to work together on a compromise bill that both Republicans and Democrats could support.
Moran’s explanation disappointed Kansans who just last week were encouraged by his opposition to the Senate bill.
Brad Linnenkamp, a Kansan with disabilities from Lawrence, said he would be among those on the phone to Moran’s office.
“I think in the long run we can get him to turn around, and hopefully that could turn the tide in the right direction,” Linnenkamp said Tuesday at a Kansas Statehouse event staged by disability advocates opposed to repeal of the ACA.
With Congress inching closer to repeal, Kansans who support Obamacare are stepping up their campaign to save both it and the opportunity to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.
The Republican repeal bills considered so far would prohibit Kansas lawmakers from expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults as 32 states and the District of Columbia have done.
Those bills also would reduce federal Medicaid funding by more than $700 billion over 10 years.
An analysis done for the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas by Manatt Health shows that the block grant plan in the Senate’s repeal and replace bill would require the state to replace nearly $1 billion in federal Medicaid funding between 2020 and 2026.
“It’s impossible for the Kansas budget to absorb cuts of this magnitude without raising taxes or significantly cutting services, especially in our state’s rural communities,” said David Jordan, executive director of the alliance, an advocacy coalition funded by several regional health foundations.
Another study, this one by the Urban Institute, estimated that 100,000 Kansans would no longer have health insurance by 2022 under the Senate bill.
“Any bill that causes more than 100,000 Kansans to lose their health coverage, raises costs for others, particularly older and lower-income Kansans, and guts Medicaid takes us backward,” said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the foundation-funded Health Reform Resource Project.