U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran came out against a Republican health care bill Tuesday shortly after Senate GOP leaders announced plans to delay a vote until after July 4.
Moran, a Kansas Republican, has emerged as a key vote in the fight over a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, that would result in 22 million people losing insurance by 2026, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
Moran, who has faced intense pressure from interest groups on all sides of the issue, announced his opposition to the bill only after GOP leaders backtracked on plans to hold a vote before July 4.
“The Senate healthcare bill missed the mark for Kansans and therefore did not have my support,” Moran said Tuesday afternoon on Twitter shortly after the delay was announced.
“I am pleased with the decision to delay the vote — now is the time to take a step back and put the full legislative process to work,” Moran elaborated in a statement.
“I remain committed to working with my colleagues and continuing conversations with patients and providers in Kansas to find a path forward that truly repeals and replaces Obamacare with a plan that makes certain Kansans will have access to more affordable and better quality healthcare.”
David Jordan, the executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, said Moran’s “willingness to stake out opposition to the existing Senate plan is encouraging.”
Jordan, who is among the organizers of a protest outside Moran’s Olathe office scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, said the senator needs to continue to hear from constituents as the process continues.
“I think the phone calls are working. I think the private meetings are working. We had a meeting with his staff this morning. … They really have been engaging with us,” he said.
Moran has scheduled a town hall for July 6 in Palco, Kan. Johnson County residents voiced strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act repeal effort at a town hall earlier this month.
Jordan said that Moran’s fellow Kansas Republican, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, has not shown the same level of engagement.
Michael Smith, a political scientist at Emporia State University, said that Moran “signaled early on that he hadn’t made up his mind,” and that caused advocacy groups to prioritize him over Roberts.
“They didn’t say call Sen. Roberts. They targeted Moran,” he said.
During a meeting with Republican senators, President Donald Trump called the Affordable Care Act a disaster and said lawmakers had no choice but to resolve the situation, according to a transcript released by the White House.
Roberts, who gave full-throated support to the legislation when it was unveiled last week, reiterated his enthusiasm for the bill after the meeting with Trump.
“We must be courageous and pass legislation as soon as possible to prepare for Obamacare’s inevitable collapse,” Roberts said in a statement. “I am encouraged by today’s meeting with the President. Senators expressed their determination to work for a solution. I am certainly open to further improvements in the bill, but Kansas fared well under this draft.”
Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said that GOP lawmakers face strategic pressure to pass something because they’ve been promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act for years.
“I can only imagine he’s getting it from all sides,” Barker said when asked about the pressure facing Moran.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, has voiced support for the legislation, while U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said Monday that the bill “should end up in one place only — the trash can.”
The Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C., calculates that nearly 480,000 Missourians would lose coverage over 10 years under the bill. The analysis, which was based on the CBO score, estimates more than 198,000 Kansans would lose coverage.
Moran’s decision to oppose the bill won praise from the Kansas Hospital Association, an organization that represents the state’s hospitals that has been in regular contact with Moran in recent days.
Cindy Samuelson, the association’s vice president for public relations, called Moran “a true health care champion who works tirelessly toward a better system” in an email Tuesday.
A day before, the association had sent letters to Roberts and Moran warning that the reductions to the number of insured Kansans would hamper medical providers’ ability to get paid for their services.
Moran’s statement did not assuage the concerns of Mike Oxford, a disability rights advocate who was leading a protest of 60 people outside Moran’s office in Pittsburg, Kan., when the announcement was made.
“It’s a throwaway, ‘Now that it’s delayed, I don’t support the bill,’ ” said Oxford, who serves as executive director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, a disability rights group.
“We need him to clearly say he isn’t going to support cuts to Medicaid or ending pre-existing conditions coverage,” Oxford said.
The bill cuts $772 billion from Medicaid, which provides health coverage to disabled people and low-income families, over a 10-year period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Kansas Hospital Association estimates that the state stands to lose about $21.4 billion in federal funding.
This would lead to cuts to programs that are not statutorily required, such as home- and community-based care services for the disabled, according to Oxford, who was among the people with disabilities arrested during a protest at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Roughly 25,000 people statewide are eligible for home care services in Kansas through Medicaid, according to data from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
“We have to keep fighting for it, because we really do see this as an existential struggle,” said Oxford.
Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the state agency that oversees home services, said that it continues to evaluate the bill. She also noted that the home care services are partially funded by the state, and the Kansas Legislature would have the final say on funding level.
The cuts to Medicaid have inspired opposition from a wide variety of interests groups.
The Kansas Association of School Boards put out an alert to its members Friday to contact the state’s two Republican senators to urge them to vote against the bill.
Kansas schools receive about $46 million from Medicaid annually for special education services. Scott Rothschild, a spokesman for the school board group, said that if the cuts to go into effect, it’ll shift the cost for those services to the state and local school districts.
Right-leaning groups have also criticized the current version bill because it leaves intact too many of the regulations enacted under former President Barack Obama.
Brent Gardner, the chief government affairs officer for Americans for Prosperity, said the conservative advocacy organization was “disappointed lawmakers haven’t done more to improve health care, but we are committed to working with them to make progress.”
Americans for Prosperity has ties to Wichita-based Koch Industries, which has been Moran’s biggest donor during his congressional career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Gardner did not answer a question about whether Americans for Prosperity was putting pressure on Moran to support changes to the bill. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes on the bill.
GOP leaders delayed the vote after lawmakers on different ends of the political spectrum spoke out against it. They will need to make changes to satisfy either the party’s moderate wing or the conservative tea party faction to gain passage.
Lindsay Wise of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed to this report.