Bipartisan Group of Governors Urges Congress Not to Repeal Obamacare Without Replacing It

by | July 18, 2017

By Jessica Wehrman and Randy Ludlow

Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined 10 other governors from both parties Tuesday afternoon in urging Congress to not repeal Obamacare without a replacement.

The statement calling on Congress to "make health insurance more affordable by controlling costs and stabilizing the market," was signed by five Republicans, five Democrats and an independent.

"The Senate should immediately reject efforts to 'repeal' the current system and replace sometime later. This could leave millions of Americans without coverage," said the statement tweeted Tuesday afternoon by Kasich.

"The next best step is for both parties to come together and do what we all can agree on: Fix our unstable insurance markets."

Kasich, a second-term Republican, has been among the most outspoken governors in opposing a GOP House-passed bill and a measure now stalled before the Senate that would make dramatic cuts in Medicaid coverage for the poor.

The governors' statement came after Republican Senate leadership announced it would seek a vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act without immediately considering or approving its replacement -- a move that already may be dead.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman may have backed a bill to repeal Obamacare without a replacement back in 2015, but now he's more hesitant to do so, saying he's worried about the impact on premiums, deductibles and coverage.

"If it is a bill that simply repeals, I believe that will add to more uncertainty and the potential for Ohioans to pay even higher premiums, higher deductibles, so we'll have to see," said the Ohio Republican on Tuesday morning.

"Obviously we would look for a (Congressional Budget Office) analysis of that to see what it involves, in terms of not just premiums and deductibles but coverage so I'll take a look at it but I'm concerned about something that would simply repeal and its impact on cost and choices in health care."

Portman's comments came after Senate President Mitch McConnell pushed for a vote to simply repeal Obamacare, with a replacement to come in two years -- similar to the 2015 proposal. The course advocated by the Kentucky Republican followed the collapse of the Senate GOP's proposed Obamacare replacement with the defection Monday night of two additional senators, on top of the two already against it. The Republicans can only pass the bill if no more than two GOP senators oppose it.

However, McConnell's latest plan already appears dead; three Republicans have said they won't vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement. Others, like Portman, are expressing serious reservations about the Senate leader's plan.

Portman backed a 2015 budget bill that would've scrapped the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio voted against that budget measure. Their votes mirrored the rest of the Ohio congressional delegation: all Democrats opposed repealing the law and all Republicans supported it.

Then-President Barack Obama vetoed the bill in January 2016, and ultimately, the House could not muster the two-thirds necessary to override his veto. The plan would have resulted in more than 30 million fewer on health insurance.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday said he was "disappointed" about the lack of votes for the Obamacare replacement.

Trump said his plan was now "to let Obamacare fail, it will be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position where we'll let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us."

(c)2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)