Sandoval splits with Heller, says senator's health care bill should not get vote

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is interviewed Tuesday, August 15, 2017, in Las Vegas. (KSNV)

LAS VEGAS (KSNV NEWS3LV) — Governor Brian Sandoval, R-Nevada, joined nine other governors Tuesday calling on the U.S. Senate to not consider an Obamacare replacement that is co-sponsored by his fellow Nevadan and Republican, Sen. Dean Heller.

“As you continue to consider changes to the American health care system, we ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans. Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms,” the governors wrote.

The bill, crafted by Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Nevada’s Heller, would end Obamacare as we know it and send money back to states in the form of block grants.

“I know that Senator Heller is working in the best interest of the state,” the Governor said Tuesday in a statement. “State experts will continue to work with our federal partners, specifically with Senator Heller’s office, on ideas to improve Nevada’s health care market,” he added.

This is the first public split between Heller and Sandoval in the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, special interest groups, and state officials are worried the latest proposal would cost Nevada billions in health care funding, something the Senator disputes.

“The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal is the best solution to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Heller said Tuesday. “Our plan moves decision-making to the states and provides each state the flexibility needed to innovate, develop, and implement new options to bring down costs and increase coverage. Our plan also allows states to maintain programs that are currently working for them, protects individuals with pre-existing conditions and eliminates the individual mandate penalty because people who can’t afford a product their government forces them to buy should not have to pay a fine.”

Heller says Nevada would receive more funding. The progressive-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says it would cost Nevada $639 million by 2026, and billions more starting in 2027 when the block grant would end.

At the FirstMed Health + Wellness Center, any cut to Medicaid funding would be harmful, says President and CEO Angela Quinn, who tells News 3 Medicaid money pays for 85 percent of her patients.

“I think that the common view that the Affordable Care Act needs some repair – everybody agrees with,” Quinn says, “but this would blow it up, it would take a pot of money that would take us back to pre-ACA time and tell us, as a state, we should be grateful we didn’t take a better loss.”

In the Senate, the clock is ticking. Any repeal and replace measure has to be passed by the end of the fiscal year in order to only need a simple majority vote. After that, it would require a 60-vote threshold, allowing the Democrats to filibuster. As it currently stands, while the bill may have some momentum, it’s no lock it will get enough support.

Quinn has a message.

“Don’t rush legislation through because there is a deadline. This is peoples’ health care,” she says.

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