Trump turns up the heat on Senate to repeal and replace

Andrew Bahl
Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP, Getty

Yahoo News continuing coverage of the Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare comes in the latest Health Care Declassified. We’ll combine our own reporting with the best insights from around the Internet to give you the latest on the future of health care in America.

President Trump scolded GOP senators for their inaction on health care reform Wednesday, saying they should not leave for the August recess without repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“We can repeal, but we should repeal and replace, and we shouldn’t leave town until this is complete and the bill is on my desk,” Trump told the senators, who ate lunch at the White House a day after the latest effort to undo the ACA appears to have flopped.

Related slideshow: Protesters across the country oppose GOP’s health care plan >>>

Trump has taken at least two contradictory stances on the matter in recent days,  advocating at times for a straight repeal of the 2010 law without an immediate replacement, and on other occasions telling Republicans to allow the ACA to collapse on its own, bringing Democrats to the table to fashion a replacement.

On Wednesday, Trump appeared to change course again, demanding a bill to simultaneously repeal and replace Obamacare. This was the approach pursued by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the last several months, until it collapsed on Monday with the defection of four members of his caucus. McConnell then announced a plan to vote next week on a repeal-only measure, which also seemed likely to fall short. He did not have an immediate public response to Trump’s latest position.

President Trump speaks to members of the media before having lunch with service members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Trump did not specify what form the replacement should take or indicate how he expected Senate Republicans to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles they have faced in trying to write a bill that could win the support it needs to pass.

Trump also attempted to browbeat senators into supporting him on the issue. One of those barbs was directed at Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who came out against McConnell’s original bill and has remained noncommittal on its successors.

“He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” Trump said of Heller.

He said that senators who voted against bringing a bill to the floor for a vote would in effect be supporting Obamacare.

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare,” Trump told the senators.


GOP governors come out against latest proposal

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a news conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at the National Press Club in Washington on June 27, 2017, about Republican legislation overhauling the Obama health care law. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

As Senate Republicans struggle to repeal Obamacare, they face not only unanimous Democratic opposition but also criticism from an unexpected source: Republican governors.

Five Republican governors signed a bipartisan letter to Congress on Tuesday opposing the proposal to repeal the ACA without immediately replacing it — the plan that was on the table that day but was possibly superseded as of Wednesday morning.

Republican governors John Kasich of Ohio, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont and Brian Sandoval of Nevada all signed the memo, which argued that a repeal-only plan would create more instability in health care markets.

“Congress should work to make health insurance more affordable by controlling costs and stabilizing the market, and we are pleased to see a growing number of senators stand up for this approach,” the letter said.

Kasich has been a longtime critic of the previous health care proposals that would slash funding for Medicaid and roll back the expansion of that program, which was a hallmark of the ACA. As governor, Kasich opted to expand Medicaid, a controversial move with some Buckeye State Republicans.

Saying Senate Republicans should begin to work with their Democratic colleagues to construct a new plan, Kasich told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday that he would like to see a plan that stabilizes the current system and also preserves care for those who already have it.

Kasich has said he had frequent discussions about the Republican bill with his state’s Republican senator, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, urging him to oppose it. In Nevada, Sandoval has been widely viewed as a key factor in Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s opposition to the first draft of the Republican bill.

Vice President Mike Pence went to Rhode Island last week  to lobby support for the bill at the National Governors Association conference in Providence.

Vice President Mike Pence waves goodbye as he wraps up an address to a NGA session titled “Collaborating to Create Tomorrow’s Global Economy” on the second day of the National Governors Association meeting on July 14, 2017, in Providence, R.I. (Photo: Stephan Savoia/AP)

Pence, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, told governors that under the Senate’s version of the bill, states could use funds to move more low-income people onto private plans. But this argument did not win over skeptics like Kasich and Sandoval, and drew opposition from more conservative governors.

“I am talking with [Arizona] Sens. [Jeff] Flake and [John] McCain, and I’m telling them what my opinion is, and I’m letting them know that I don’t want to see any Arizonan have the rug pulled out from underneath them,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey told a local radio station.

Sandoval was the first Republican governor to expand Medicaid in 2012, and joined Heller in a joint press conference last month to oppose the bill as it stood then. He has been critical of potential loss of those funds, which boosted Nevada’s insurance coverage rates from among the lowest in the country to the middle of the pack.

“I’m greatly concerned and very protective of the expansion population. They are living healthier and happier lives as a result of their receiving coverage, and for them to lose that at this point would be very hurtful for them,” Sandoval told CNN from Providence.

With that plan off the table for now, Kasich said, his colleagues are ready to join the conversation about bolstering the nation’s health care system.

“The best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways,” Kasich wrote in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday. “America needs it, and I know that a bipartisan group of governors, including myself, stands ready to help in any way we can to provide an affordable, sustainable and responsible system of health care for the American people.”

— Andrew Bahl


Single-payer proposal gains support as GOP proposals collapse

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks during a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 4, 2017. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s backup plan to repeal the ACA without a replacement crumbled on Tuesday after losing the support of four members of his own party, Democrats rallied around a policy that’s nearly the exact opposite of McConnell’s — single-payer health care.

The bill, H.R.676, now has 115 cosponsors in the House and support from the majority of the chamber’s Democratic members. The bill has been gathering momentum since April, when it gained 32 co-sponsors, and it is winning converts  as more lawmakers view it as an acceptable alternative to the Republicans’ various versions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

“Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [i.e. Obamacare] was a step in the right direction,” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the single-payer bill’s original sponsor, said in a statement after reintroducing it in January. The bill to establish a nationwide single-payer health care system was first introduced to Congress in 2003. “It has provided health insurance to millions of our nation’s uninsured and eliminated many of the worst practices of the private health insurance industry. Rather than repealing it and taking a step back, we should build on that progress by expanding Medicare to All.”

Additionally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said embracing single payer was “the next step” for her party. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. have also expressed their support for the legislation in recent weeks. Even former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore has spoken out in favor of single-payer health care.

“The private sector has not shown any ability to provide good, affordable health care for all,” Gore said at a promotional event for his new climate change documentary at Borough of Manhattan Community College on Tuesday. “I believe we ought to have single-payer health care.”

This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to bring single-payer health care to the U.S. The California State Senate passed a bill last month to create a single-payer health care system for all residents of the state that is now headed to the state assembly for consideration. A referendum on a proposed single-payer system in Colorado made it to ballots in November, but was rejected by voters.

Currently, the United States is one of the few developed nations in the world that does not provide government-funded health care for all its residents.

The bill to establish a nationwide single payer health care system was first introduced to Congress in 2003.  — Taylor Rogers


Photo op: GOP lawmaker jumps the tracks to avoid reporters

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., jumps over the Senate subway tracks to evade reporters as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Moran’s leap follows the collapse of the GOP health care bill, in which he played a key role. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced their opposition to the bill together on Monday night, which brought the total number of GOP senators opposed to the bill to four — and effectively stopped the legislation in its tracks.

“There are serious problems with Obamacare. … We must now start fresh with an open legislative process,” Moran wrote in a Monday statement. Reporters seeking more comment were left waiting at the platform. — Julia Munslow


In wake of health care bill collapse, protests against GOP plan continue

A minister belonging to a group demanding that Congress to reject the Trump administration’s budget proposals and health care bill is arrested during a demonstration in the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 18, 2017. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Protesters are still pressuring lawmakers to vote against legislation that would dismantle Obamacare, even after the Senate health care bill tanked.

A group of clergy members was arrested at the Capitol Tuesday during a protest against the federal budget cuts and the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The pastors were arrested as they sang and prayed in the Russell Senate Office building.

“I have no doubt that even if the Republicans cannot repeal and replace [Obamacare], they will make every effort through the budget process to slash Medicare and leave millions without health care,” Rev. Cynthia Hale, one of the protesters, said at a press conference in the Capitol, adding that there is a “moral obligation to ensure that every American’s life and health are safeguarded and protected.”

Even though the Senate bill was withdrawn after four GOP senators announced their opposition to the legislation, activists are still pressuring their senators to vote against any measures that would dismantle Obamacare.

Activists protested the idea of dismantling Obamacare Tuesday, with demonstrations at the offices of Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida.

“We want to encourage Dean Heller to remain steadfast … he’s already come out and said he’d vote no, but we want to keep the pressure on,” one protester told KTNV. — Julia Munslow