Sen. Jerry Moran, who years ago was the first member of Congress to formally seek repeal of Obamacare, Monday became a major player in keeping the seven-year-old law alive, at least for now, as he said he’d oppose the Senate Republican effort to overhaul the system.
He was joined by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, pushing the number of GOP opponents to four. Since Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, the announcements doom the current version of the GOP plan.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” said Moran in a statement.
The senator, re-elected overwhelmingly to a second Senate term last year, has long been regarded as a Republican loyalist. And he reiterated Monday that his goal for health care “remains what it had been for a long time: To repeal and replace it.”
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But Moran has been troubled by how fellow Republicans have gone about doing that. Monday, he criticized the “closed door process” that produced the version of the overhaul, and found the latest bill, unveiled last week, “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”
Moran was one of about 10 Republican senators who had raised objections to an earlier version of the bill released last month. Two had already said they were opposed to the latest version, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Last month, Moran’s concerns included worry about the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program that helps insure lower income consumers. The senator said the cuts could devastate rural hospitals in his home state of Kansas. He held a series of packed town halls on the subject in his state to solicit feedback from constituents, and even after this month’s bill was proposed, his concerns remained.
Among other objections Moran had raised about the earlier version of the bill were that it failed to address the systemic issues that drive up health care costs, did not provide enough premium and deductible relief, and Kansans are more likely to lose access to health care.
Moran also said he would need language or a program in the bill confirming rural hospitals will be better off.
“For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill,” Moran said on Monday, “I cannot support this one.”
Moran warned Monday that if Republicans don’t come up with an alternative to Obamacare, supporters of a government-run health care system will triumph, costing taxpayers untold amounts of money. But it’s highly unlikely a “single payer” system would ever win congressional approval. While it has a strong following among some Democrats, other Democrats are wary.
Moran called for Congress to start over with a more bipartisan approach, a strategy that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had floated recently.
Moran wants an “open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansas.”
David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, which opposes the bill, praised Moran.
“We’re pleased the senator has chosen to protect the interest of Kansans vs. making decisions for political reasons,” Jordan said.
Sean Gatewood, co-administrator of the KanCare Advocates Network, who represents Kansans on Medicaid, also was pleased about Moran’s decision.
"His earlier concerns, none of them were addressed by this bill, so the fact that he stuck with it, we're really excited about it," Gatewood said of Moran’s opposition.
Hunter Woodall of the Kansas City Star contributed to this article from Topeka.