GOP health care repeal would inflict deepest Medicaid cuts on expansion states like Alaska, Nevada

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01:  U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) leaves after a vote in an elevator at the Capitol February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have both announced that they will not vote for President Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary Betsy DeVos.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

One of the most obviously cruel parts of the new Cassidy-Graham health care repeal bill is that it would take money away from America’s neediest by slashing federal Medicaid spending nationwide. The measure not only proposes deeper cuts to the program than its predecessors, it also targets the biggest cuts at states that expanded their Medicaid coverage under Obamacare to cover more people in the state.

Any GOP “moderate” who was worried about Medicaid cuts under the previous bills should be doubly worried about the latest iteration, especially people like Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dean Heller of Nevada. They represent states where many people gained coverage through the expansion. The Washington Post’s Paige Cunningham writes:

Just like the health-care bill the Senate rejected in July, the plan that GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) are furiously whipping among their GOP colleagues this week would significantly cut federal Medicaid spending across the board. And it even contains a double whammy for the 30 or so states that accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, reducing their share of the extra funding by spreading it across all 50 states in an effort to put all the states on a more equal playing field.

Cassidy lives in one of these states — Louisiana — that expanded Medicaid and stands to receive among the heftiest funding cuts if his bill is enacted. So does Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who has also signed onto the Cassidy bill, and several other moderate Republicans whose votes are crucial to passing it — including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Arizona Sen. John McCain and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Some of these senators have already shown no compunction whatsoever about voting to strip health care away from their own constituents. But Murkowski, who hasn’t yet voiced opposition to the new bill, certainly did. Heller once did too, though he ultimately voted for the last effort known as “skinny” repeal.

Democrats are already running ads against him for that vote, and this bill should give him and other Republicans even greater pause. But Heller is apparently all in on punishing his state for extending health care coverage to more people.

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