Portman Warns Against Cutting Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion Program


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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio got into a heated exchange with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky over the proposed roll back in funding for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion program, according to Friday’s Politico Playbook.

The two senators, who have been friends and colleagues for years, are having trouble reconciling their policy differences over what to do about Medicaid funding. McConnell aligned himself with Senate conservatives who called for more immediate, steeper cuts to the Medicaid expansion program, a move that has worked to exacerbate the increasingly impassioned divide between moderate and conservative lawmakers in the Senate.

The Senate released its revised bill to repeal major portions of Obamacare Monday. The bill eventually rolls back the federal funds granted to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion program. States will also be barred from expanding Medicaid after 2020. The states that have expanded Medicaid by the deadline will receive a smaller portion of federal funds, starting in 2021. (RELATED: The One Significant Change Of The New Senate Obamacare Bill)

Portman, who has offered up his own solutions to the repeal effort, like instituting individual spending caps to Medicaid, is incredibly unhappy with the current proposal, Politico reports. (RELATED: America’s Latest Addiction Threatens To Derail Obamacare Repeal)

The Ohio senator believes McConnell and Senate leadership “overreached” on this bill, according to Politico. McConnell and President Donald Trump are pushing for a more than $700 billion cut to Medicaid.

The Senate majority leader has fired his own shots at Portman, reminding him that while Portman served as White House Office of Management and Budget director under former President George W. Bush he was in favor of major “entitlement reform.”

Leading up to the release of the Senate bill, Portman repeatedly expressed concern that rolling back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion program without offering consumers another affordable option would place an undue burden on those seeking substance-abuse treatments.

Portman’s home state of Ohio has become the poster child for the opioid epidemic, with double-digit increases in opioid-related overdoses in 2014 and 2015. Deaths from opioid use in the U.S. have skyrocketed from around 8,000 in 1999 to over 30,000 in 2015, the Center for Disease Control reports.

“The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” Portman wrote Tuesday in a joint statement with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

McConnell and Senate leadership are fighting for every bit of support they can get behind their repeal bill, and are hoping to come to some sort of agreement around major portions of the legislation Friday.

The Senate majority leader must lock down at least 50 votes for the measure to pass. Thus far, at least six Republican senators are on the fence. (RELATED: Ben Sasse Is Uncommitted On Senate Health Care Bill)

McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate would delay the vote on its version of Obamacare repeal until after the July 4 recess, which gives him and others in leadership more time to whip the necessary votes in order to get the bill one step closer to Trump’s desk for approval.

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