U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is opposed to a bill crafted in secret by Republican leaders to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
But speaking to an overflow crowd at a town hall meeting Thursday in northwest Kansas, Moran said he is open to supporting a revised version if GOP leaders can address his concerns.
“I would be anxious to see if that bill can get to the point in which I think it’s beneficial for Kansas,” Moran said.
Among other things, Moran said he is concerned about the effect of nearly $800 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts on rural health care providers and Kansans with disabilities. And he said he doesn’t like how the bill treats Kansas and other states that have not expanded eligibility for their Medicaid programs.
“It takes money out of a state that didn’t expand Medicaid and provides it to states that did expand Medicaid to extend the time that Medicaid expansion receives the higher reimbursement rate,” the GOP senator said. “That troubles me.”
More than $680 billion would be diverted to expansion states from non-expansion states by 2025, according to the Kansas Hospital Association. Kansas’ share of that loss would total about $21 billion.
Approximately 120,000 Kansans would lose their health insurance under the bill due to the Medicaid cuts and higher out-of-pocket costs for private coverage, according to estimates compiled by the Urban Institute.
Several people traveled more than 100 miles to attend the meeting, which was in a community center in the tiny community of Palco.
Margy Stewart, a retired college English instructor, traveled from her ranch in the Flint Hills to thank Moran for opposing the initial draft of the ACA replacement bill and to urge him to stand firm.
“His (Moran’s) leadership in the Senate really wants this win,” Stewart said. “I want him to think more about Kansans and less about pleasing his leadership.”
Moran was asked several times why Republicans were so intent on repealing a law that has expanded health coverage to millions of Americans. Audience members also asked why Senate members can’t work together to craft a bipartisan bill to fix the ACA.
In response, Moran said while he also would prefer that approach, Democratic leaders aren’t willing to make the substantial changes needed to fix Obamacare.
“It takes two parties who want to come together, and it takes the American people to demand that,” Moran said.
Though he’s open to supporting a compromise measure, Moran said he isn’t optimistic that GOP leaders can alter the bill so that it’s acceptable to both moderates and conservatives in their caucus.
“It’s almost impossible when you’re trying to do it with 51 votes in the United States Senate, in which there is not significant consensus in what the end result ought to be,” he said.
Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks.