Despite plea from Kasich, Portman may back Obamacare overhaul plan

Despite plea from Kasich, Portman set to back Obamacare overhaul plan

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Despite plea from Kasich, Portman set to back Obamacare overhaul plan

Despite a plea from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman may support a Republican measure that dramatically revises Obamacare by allowing states to design their own health-care programs, although he acknowledged he has yet to make a firm decision.

Just hours after Kasich and nine other governors urged the Senate to reject the measure co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Portman said he is “supportive of the idea of getting the flexibility back to the states.”

But in a conference call with Ohio reporters, Portman, R-Ohio, said was “reviewing the bill because I want to make sure the numbers work for Ohio.”

If Portman votes for the Graham bill, it would amount to a rebuke of his home state Republican governor. And he could also provide one of the key votes Republicans need for passage.

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Because President Donald Trump has said he would sign the bill, Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate by a 52-48 margin.

Kasich and the nine other governors Tuesday pleaded with Senate Republicans to drop the Graham bill and rally behind a bipartisan approach being developed by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

That measure, which could be unveiled next week, would be designed to stabilize the federally subsidized individual insurance markets created by the 2010 health law known as Obamacare.

“Improvements to our health insurance markets should control costs, stabilize the market, and positively impact coverage and care of millions of Americans, including many who are dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems, and drug addiction,” Kasich and the governors wrote.

Kasich worries that the plan pushed by Graham would ultimately take money from the Medicaid program, which the Ohio governor has relied upon to provide health coverage to more than 700,000 low-income people in the state. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program which provides health coverage to low-income Americans.

Graham and Cassidy are offering Republicans on Capitol Hill one last chance to scrap Obamacare. After years of vowing to repeal the law, the GOP effort collapsed this summer when Republicans could not rally around an alternative.

The Graham bill, in essence, would tell the states they could stay in Obamacare or take billions of federal dollars to design their own programs.

In particular, the bill would repeal the law’s requirements that individuals buy federally subsidized insurance policies set up through the states and the federal government.

The measure also ends the expansion of Medicaid which allowed Kasich and governors from 30 other states from offering health care to families of four earning as much as $34,000 a year.

Instead, the federal government would supply states with per-capita grants, which might not be enough to pay for the expanded programs.

In a floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer assailed the Graham bill, charging it “would cause millions to lose coverage.”

Schumer said the Graham bill would “radically restructure and deeply cut Medicaid, ending the program as we know it. The dream of the hard right — get rid of Medicaid —could happen, even though that’s a program that affects the poor and so many in the middle class.”

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