obamacare Archives - Florida Politics

Amy Mercado: The never-ending battle against higher premiums

We recently learned that if the Donald Trump administration pulls Obamacare subsidies, premiums will jump 20 percent on the most popular coverage, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This would be very bad news for Floridians who are already struggling with the rising costs of health care.

Our state has led the nation in Obamacare sign ups with more than 1.6 million enrolled in 2017, up from 1.1 million the prior year. This is due, in some part, to the refusal of leadership in Tallahassee to expand Medicaid that left up to 1 million Floridians without access to the health care coverage they need to live and work.

If there is any doubt about the dire need for affordable health care coverage, 45 of 50 states have fewer uninsured people than Florida. We simply can’t afford any premium increases.

That’s why it’s also important to once again delay the looming Health Insurance Tax.

This Health Insurance Tax, also known as the “HIT tax,” was previously delayed by Congress for the current year. The delay received bipartisan support, with 400 members of Congress voting in favor of the delay, and it was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The Health Insurance Tax is estimated to increase premiums on certain policies by about 3 percent in January 2018. Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage and small-business owners, their employees and their families will also have to pay more out of pocket.

And the state Medicaid budget will be squeezed even more than it is already — especially bad timing considering the Florida Legislature just cut funding for care provided to Medicaid patients.

As a working mom, businesswoman and former health care worker, I know that every penny counts. When you can’t afford coverage, you can’t afford to get sick.

I also know these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

When we talk about health care here in Central Florida or anywhere in the country, we need to think about our friends, our family and our neighbors — real people trying to make ends meet.

That’s who pays higher premium costs due to the actions or inactions of our lawmakers.

When I go back to Tallahassee for committee weeks and the 2018 Legislative Session, I promise to continue fighting for better access to the health care coverage Floridians deserve.

I hope that our federal lawmakers, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and our local Congressional Delegation, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto and Val Demings will support continued Obamacare subsidies and also delay the Health Insurance Tax for 2018 to keep premiums from rising on small businesses, seniors and our state budget.

Floridians can’t afford any premium increases.

We need more affordable coverage, not less.

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Amy Mercado represents District 48 in the Florida House of Representatives.

Political committee attacks Florida Republicans in new ad campaign

A liberal political committee put out digital ads this week painting the GOP as dysfunctional after Senate Republicans failed to pass a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act.

American Bridge said it would run the ads in four states, including Florida, and will focus on targeting swing voters through social media.

“The Republican Congress isn’t working. It’s time for new leadership in Washington,” the ad reads.

The ads lead to a signup page asking viewers to add their name to a list of people who “demand new leadership in Washington.”

“Every Republican in Washington should be ashamed for spending the better part of 2017 pushing a plan to gut health care for the middle class in order to cut taxes for the rich,” the page reads.

American Bridge Vice President Shripal Shah said in a press release announcing the ads that D.C. Republicans “are mired in dysfunction, unable deliver on their campaign promises and beholden to a toxic legislative agenda. They are offering the country chaos when we need competence.”

“Kicking millions off of their insurance in order to cut taxes for the rich was a recipe for disaster from the start, and in the aftermath of last night’s failure, we’re going to hold Republicans accountable. Their failures underscore the need for new leadership in Washington that will work in a bipartisan fashion to address the country’s challenges,” he continued.

Senate Republicans were primed to pass healthcare legislation Thursday night, but Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain joined 48 Senate Democrats and longtime Republican holdouts Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins in voting down the repeal bill.

An example of the ad running against Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is below:

John Newstreet’s campaign blames Bobby Olszewski for ‘liberal Newstreet’ attack ads; Olszewski denies involvement

The House District 44 Republican primary is boiling, as John Newstreet responded to a shadow group’s attack ads with a Facebook Live video decrying them as “not true” and his campaign blamed rival Bobby Olszewski, who denied involvement and disavowed such politics.

The ruckus is over mailers and an internet site sponsored by a new group called Central Florida Republicans for Truth, which contend that Newstreet is a liberal-in-Republican clothing who supports the Affordable Care Act and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Newstreet says the claims are not true, and his opponents know that.

“They obviously don’t care about truthfulness,” Newstreet states in the Facebook Live video. “I am disheartened that someone who has called me a friend fur years now choses to lie about me for his own political gain.”

Newstreet’s campaign pointed the finger at Olszewski. The two, and two other Republicans, are battling toward an Aug. 15 primary to run for HD 44 in an Oct. 10 special election, to represent southwest Orange County.

Olszewski completely denied any association with the group behind the mailers and internet video, Central Florida Republicans for Truth, and said he rejects the style of politics they are promoting.

Newstreet and Olszewski are in a race with fellow Republicans Bruno Portigliatti and Dr. Usha Jain. Portgliatti also denied any involvement and repudiated the ads. Jain did not respond Monday, but no one has suggested she might be involved.

Absentee ballot voting already is underway in the primary.

In his Facebook Live video, Newstreet calls the mailers and video, “misleading attack ads.” He declares, “Folks these negative pieces simply are not true.”

Newstreet’s campaign Manager Anna Taylor said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com, “Bobby has known John Newstreet for more than a decade ago. He knows John is against illegal immigration and amnesty.

“As he’s proven today, with [Windermere] Mayor [Gary] Bruhn and [Ocoee Mayor Rusty] Johnson dropping their endorsement of him because of his flip-flop on home rule, he’s willing to say and do anything to get elected to office,” she continued. “The connection between [Michael] Millner and Bobby’s campaign team is obvious and the fact they are hiding their identity just shows the type of candidate they are working with.”

She did not elaborate about how Millner or the committee’s connection to Olszewski’s campaign was obvious. Millner has been treasurer, chairman, or registered agent for dozens of political action committees all over the state.

[Earlier Monday Bruhn and Johnson withdrew their endorsements of Olszewski, because of his campaign plank to push for local office election term limits.]

Central Florida Republicans for Truth filed to be registered on July 14, with Jacob Milich as chairman and Millner as treasurer. Milich did not return a phone call Monday seeking comments on the campaign, or who is paying for it.

Central Florida Republicans for Truth has not yet filed any campaign finance disclosures that would indicate its source of money.

When asked if he was at all connected with the group, Olszewski responded:

“I don’t know anything about them and reject negative campaigning. I’ve walked thousands of doors, made thousands more phone calls and ask the voters to judge who’s track record is consistently conservative. I will say I like and respect each candidate in this race. Having been on the receiving end of negative ads I understand the need or desire to blame someone. But as I said before I know nothing about any of the groups involved in this race.”

In his Facebook Live video, Newstreet makes it clear that he blames his “opponents” for the attacks, and makes it clear he knows which one, saying the former friend, “choses to lie about me for his own political gain.” Yet Newstreet does not himself name names.

That appears to leave Jain, who is a woman, out of his suspicions.

When he was asked if he were involved, Portigliatti replied, “Absolutely not. We don’t know anything about the group or who is behind the group. We’re disappointed in this type of campaigning; voters in House District 44 deserve candidates that are focused on the issues.”

The mailers charged that Newstreet is new to the district he’s running in. They charge that he supports the Affordable Care Act. And they and a video on a related website charge he told a protest group that supports amnesty that “we’re supportive.”

Two or the charges are not new to the campaign.

Newstreet responded two weeks ago to claims that he was new to the district, saying he’d bought his home there in 2008 and has lived there off and on ever since, most recently for the past 16 months, moving in and out of the district as his jobs dictated, but always holding onto the house as his permanent residence.

The matter of the Affordable Care Act came up in a debate two weeks ago in which Newstreet said he supported 80 percent of the law and opposed 20 percent. His campaign quickly retracted that statement, saying he misspoke in the live conversation, and had meant to say he supported 20 percent of ObamaCare and opposed 80 percent.

The third matter, of amnesty for illegal aliens, dates to when Newstreet was a staff member for then-U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. Newstreet’s HD 44 campaign said protesters were seeking Republican LeMieux’s support for the Dream Act in 2010, and had gathered outside his office. Newstreet, the senator’s district representative, was dispatched to go outside and talk to them. He did so by assuring the protesters that LeMieux’s  office would listen to their concerns, but made no promises or assurances of support for the act, the Newstreet HD 44 campaign said Monday.

LeMieux did not support the Dream Act.

The video Central Florida Republicans for Truth posted on their anti-Newstreet website, uses jarring images and pulsating text to declare, “In 2010, State House candidate John Newstreet addressed a radical group dedicated to increasing illegal immigration and passing the Dream Act.” It then shows him addressing the gathering by saying, “We’re friendly to you. We’re supportive. Hopefully, we can get something done.”

The video does not mention that Newstreet addressed them on behalf of LeMieux, while they were protesting his office.

“Folks, that’s not how we do things in our community,” Newstreet stated in his video.

Rick Scott: DC needs to start rewarding efficiency, not inefficiency

Ed. Note: Gov. Rick Scott‘s office sent the following op-ed regarding “the national healthcare debate.”


I recently traveled to D.C. to fight for Florida as the U.S. Senate debated repealing and replacing Obamacare. For far too long, D.C. politicians have focused only on the grand bargain of repealing and replacing Obamacare, ignoring the opportunity to make incremental changes to get rid of the taxes and mandates and roll back the federal welfare state. 

For decades, the federal government has been willing to spend more than it takes in. We all know this is not sustainable, leaving debt for our children and grandchildren – more than $19 trillion in debt and counting. The inaction we’ve seen on repealing Obamacare shows that hasn’t changed.

Throughout this healthcare debate, a lot of people have been advocating for bigger government, and not a lot of people have been advocating for taxpayers. I will always advocate for Florida’s hardworking taxpayers.

While a new bill has been introduced this week, it has taken far too long to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, and I fear the politicians in Washington will never find common ground on this critical topic. There is absolutely no question that Obamacare must be repealed immediately so Americans can actually afford to purchase health insurance.

To lower costs, fundamental reform to the Medicaid program is needed. Obamacare encouraged a massive expansion of Medicaid to cover able-bodied, working-aged adults, even as 600,000 elderly Americans and individuals with disabilities nationwide sit on waiting lists to access services through this program.  

States like Florida that have run increasingly efficient Medicaid programs, and have not expanded Medicaid, must be rewarded and treated fairly under any bill. What’s concerning is that under the most recently proposed Senate bill, tax and spend states like New York will continue to be rewarded for running an inefficient Medicaid program.

Long before the Obamacare debate, New York ran a terribly inefficient Medicaid program for decades which ran up their state’s deficit and hindered their economy. Florida is the exact opposite. We have been efficient with our dollars while providing quality care to those who truly need Medicaid. 

As a reward for its fiscal irresponsibility, for every dollar New York pays in federal income taxes, they receive a quarter back from the federal government for Medicaid. In comparison, Florida only receives 16 cents for every tax dollar that is sent to Washington. Current Congressional bills lock in past federal spending, which would make this inequity permanent.

That makes absolutely no sense. If Florida is going to get a smaller rate of return on its federal taxes, shouldn’t our federal taxes be cut? New York, with fewer residents than Florida, receives more than $33 billion per year for Medicaid while Florida receives less than $15 billion.

How is permanently locking in these spending levels fair to Floridians when New York has been terribly inefficient with their taxpayers’ dollars? The federal government should cut income taxes for Floridians by 30 percent. This would put our share of federal Medicaid funding as a percentage of taxes paid on par with New York. This reduction would save Floridians thousands each year.

The federal government must start rewarding efficient states like Florida and stop rewarding inefficient states. Our taxpayers deserve nothing less. 

Rick Scott on GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare: ‘They can’t stop’

Gov. Rick Scott said federal lawmakers need to keep their word, and continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“They can’t stop,” said Scott following a stop in Fort Myers on Monday. “They all promised they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and they got to do it.”

The Naples Republican’s comments come as Congress returns to an unresolved debate over GOP proposals to roll back much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called off a pre-recess vote on the Senate’s measure, when it appeared it would fail.

Scott has been vocal in his opposition to the current health care law, and has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to talk with federal lawmakers about repealing and replacing the law. He was last in the nation’s capital to talk with lawmakers about health care on June 27, the same day McConnell announced he would be delaying a vote on the bill.

“The way I always look at it is … until you get results, you’re just working hard every day,” said Scott when asked whether he thought his discussions with federal lawmakers were productive. “It’s like the legislative process this session. We worked hard to get the money for Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the money for schools. You work every day. Until it’s all done, you always wonder.”

The future of the GOP health care plan remains unclear. The Associated Press reported that at least 10 Republican senators have expressed opposition to the initial bill, drafted by McConnell. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, and Democrats are united against the bill. That means just three Republican votes against it will doom it.

Last week, McConnell said he would introduce a fresh bill in about a week, but he also acknowledged that if the broader effort fails, he may turn to a smaller bill with quick help for insurers and consumers and negotiate with Democrats.

The governor said what is important to him is that “Florida is treated fairly” under whatever legislation ultimately clears Congress. Scott also said it’s important that, whether someone has a pre-existing condition, they have the right to buy the plan they want.

The state, he said, should also have “flexibility in our Medicaid program to figure out our own benefits, reimbursement rates and things like that.” The federal government also needs to “reduce the amount of regulations” states need to deal with.

David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said criticized Scott’s call for lawmakers to pass a bill, saying Scott is “only ever looking out for himself.” Scott is largely believed to be mulling a 2018 U.S. Senate run.

“First Scott bragged that he helped craft the toxic GOP health care plan that spikes costs by 20 percent, imposes an age tax on older Floridians and strips coverage for pre-existing conditions — all to give himself a big tax break. Now he’s demanding to ram this unpopular plan through Congress, even though the consequences for middle-class Floridians would be expensive and horrific,” said Bergstein in a statement. “It’s just another reminder that Scott is only ever looking out for himself — while Floridians who actually work for a living are paying the price.”

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Gwen Graham: ‘Health care is a right’

Former Congresswoman and now Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham on Tuesday rapped the U.S. Senate’s proposed Obamacare replacement, saying “if you get quality health care, you can have a miracle.”

Graham, speaking to reporters in the state Capitol, was referring to her husband’s recent cancer remission. Steve Hurm was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer last year.

Acknowledging that her family has good insurance coverage, “I want that for everyone,” she said. “No one should be put in a position where they can’t get the health care they deserve.”

Her announcement came shortly after fellow Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum said he was “calling for a constitutional amendment declaring affordable healthcare a fundamental right for all Floridians.”

Graham stood next to a pile of petitions she said opposed Congress’ repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama‘s signature legislative achievement. She planned on delivering the petitions to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Tallahassee office after her press conference.

Senate leaders scrambled Tuesday to rescue their health care bill, however, in deepening jeopardy as opposition from rebellious Republicans intensified. The defections proliferated after Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than under Obamacare.

Graham, who represented north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District from 2015-17, also said “we should be expanding Medicaid” to cover more poor and working poor Floridians.

Efforts to do so in the Legislature have failed, faced by staunch opposition from House Republican leadership and Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican and former head of a for-profit hospital chain.

“How do (they) sleep at night … knowing that decisions they have made caused people to die?” Graham said. “Where is the humanity? … We want to take care of people; we want to help people.”

She was joined by the mother of a child with the same generic heart disorder that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel‘s son has, and Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist who was involved in the controversial 2011 “Docs vs. Glocks” state law that aimed to stop doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.

“The essential health benefits (of Obamacare) are what all children need,” he said, mentioning “checkups, immunizations and access to hospitalization” when needed.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, “which many people don’t know what’s in it, is heartless,” Graham said. She also opposes Medicaid block grants, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Legislature favor.

In response to a question about Gillum’s proposal, she added: “I think health care is a right, but I want to make sure the way we go about it is too.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

Joe Henderson: In losing his seat, David Jolly found his voice. Republicans better listen.

Losing an election can be liberating. At least it seems to be that way for David Jolly.

The former Republican congressman from St. Petersburg always had an independent streak, but he has gone full-blown solo since losing his seat last November to Charlie Crist in CD 13. He takes every opportunity on Twitter to bash President Donald Trump, including a jab about the suspension of live on-camera press briefings in a recent missive.

But that was small potatoes compared to what the jab he took on Lawrence O’Donnell’s program on MSNBC. He committed Republican heresy by actually praising the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama).

Jolly said that after losing the election, he was unemployed with a pre-existing condition. Having the Obamacare safety net was a great relief.

So, here’s what I’m guessing: While Jolly told O’Donnell he is considering a rematch against Crist in 2018, he likely is finished in big-time politics — at least as a Republican.

The national organization already considered him a rouge thorn for his disinterest in raising money; coming out in favor of Obamacare is the GOP equivalent of having serpents spew from his mouth.

Jolly is a pretty smart guy and I’m sure he has a good feel for how he stands in the eyes of party leaders. They likely would greet his potential candidacy with the same enthusiasm one has for an IRS audit. CD 13 is a primarily Democratic district anyway, so even if Jolly got the Republican nomination, party bosses would be unwilling to channel money his way.

Republicans could have a tough time holding onto their House majority and probably would be willing to invest in races with a greater likelihood of success.

Here’s the thing, though. While Jolly is playing with a nothing-to-lose swagger that infuriates GOP leaders, they really ought to pay attention to what he is saying.

They have already gotten an earful from constituents about health care, and the seeming rush by the Senate to approve a bill that could leave 22 million Americans without insurance reinforces the GOP’s image as a party that doesn’t give a hoot about the needs of ordinary people.

When a person like Jolly says that he faced potential calamity after losing his government health care, the message to everyone is that clear: The big shots take care of themselves and their buddies, and screw over everyone else.

In losing his seat, Jolly seems to have found his voice, and he isn’t afraid to use it. His Republican friends better listen.

Andrew Gillum proposes constitutional amendment declaring affordable health care ‘a fundamental right of all Floridians’

Andrew Gillum is calling for a constitutional amendment declaring affordable healthcare is a fundamental right for all Floridians.

Gillum, one of three Democrats running for governor in 2018, announced Tuesday he was proposing a constitutional amendment to declare affordable health care a “fundamental right of all Floridians.”

The proposed amendment, according to a ballot summary provided by the Gillum campaign, would add “a new section to Article 1 of the Florida Constitution.”

“The following language shall be added to Article 1 of the Florida Constitution,” reads the draft text of the proposed constitutional amendment provided by the Gillum campaign. “Affordable health care is a fundamental right of all Floridians. In weighing priorities and allocating available resources, the Legislature shall afford the highest consideration to securing this right.”

The announcement comes as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a health care bill that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than the current health care law.

The Senate plan would end the tax penalty that law imposes on people who don’t buy insurance, in effect erasing the so-called individual mandate, and on larger businesses that don’t offer coverage to workers.

It would also cut Medicaid, which provides health insurance to over 70 million poor and disabled people, by $772 billion through 2026 by capping its overall spending and phasing out Obama’s expansion of the program. Of the 22 million people losing health coverage, 15 million would be Medicaid recipients.

“It’s time for Florida to finally enshrine healthcare as a right for all,” said Gillum in a statement. “There is a public trust for the government to care for its citizens, and our state can no longer be ambiguous about that moral obligation. When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we’re going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values.”

In Florida, amendments can be proposed to the Constitution through an initiative petition process. According to the Division of Elections, in order for a proposed amendment by initiative to get on the 2018 general election ballot, a petition must be signed by 766,200 voters. Signatures must come from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts.

Gillum faces Gwen Graham, a former U.S. representative from Tallahassee, and Orlando businessman Chris King.

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

These senators will make or break the GOP’s health care push

President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare” is now in the hands of a key group of GOP senators who are opposing —or not yet supporting — legislation Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to bring to a vote this week.

These lawmakers range from moderate to conservative Republicans, and include senators who were just re-elected and a couple facing tough re-election fights. Their concerns about the legislation vary along with their ideology, from those who say it’s overly punitive in ejecting people from the insurance rolls, to others who say it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Satisfying one group risks alienating another.

Trump spent part of the weekend placing phone calls to a handful of these lawmakers, focusing on senators who supported his candidacy — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The next several days will show whether the president’s efforts pay off and if those lawmakers and the others will ultimately fall in line on legislation that would impact health care for millions of Americans, while allowing Trump and GOP leaders to boast of fulfilling a campaign promise seven years in the making.

McConnell has scant margin for error given united Democratic opposition, and can afford to lose only two Republicans from his 52-member caucus.

A look at the key Republican lawmakers:

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THE CONSERVATIVES

Cruz, Paul, Johnson and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah jointly announced their opposition to the legislation as written last Thursday, the same day it was released. They said it did not go far enough to dismantle “Obamacare,” and Johnson also complained of a rushed process.

“They’re trying to jam this thing through,” Johnson complained Monday to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Yet Johnson, like many other congressional Republicans, was elected in 2010 on pledges to repeal Obamacare and has been making that promise ever since. While looking for tweaks that can satisfy the conservatives, Senate GOP leaders are also arguing that any Republican who fails to vote for the leadership bill will be responsible for leaving Obamacare standing.

Few Senate Republicans expect Paul to vote with them in the end, because of opposition he’s long expressed to government tax subsidies going to pay for private insurance, but many expect Cruz could be won over, especially since he’s running for re-election.

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THE ENDANGERED

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, the only Senate Republican up for re-election next year in a state Hillary Clinton won, surprised Senate GOP leaders by coming out hard against the health legislation at a news conference Friday. Standing next to Nevada’s popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Heller said he could not support a bill that “takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”

Nevada is one of the states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The GOP bill would unwind that expansion and cap Medicaid payments for the future. Nevada also has a disproportionate share of older residents under age 65 — when Medicare kicks in — who would likely face higher premiums because the GOP bill gives insurance companies greater latitude to charge more to older customers.

Heller’s fellow moderate Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, faces similar issues of an aging population in neighboring Arizona. He is viewed as the second-most-endangered GOP incumbent next year after Heller.

Flake has not yet taken stance on the bill but is facing a raft of television ads from AARP and other groups that are opposed.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat seen as a possible Flake challenger next year, said Monday the Senate bill “doesn’t make anyone healthier. It doesn’t make anyone safer.”

But Flake, who was outspoken against Trump during last year’s campaign but has grown quieter since his election, also faces a potential primary challenge from the right.

Both Heller and Flake face the uncomfortable prospect of angering their party’s base if they don’t support the GOP health bill — but alienating general election moderate and independent voters if they do.

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THE MODERATES

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are fellow moderates who’ve raised concerns about the Senate health bill for a variety of reasons.

On Monday, after the release of a Congressional Budget Office analysis that the bill will leave 22 million more people uninsured over a decade, Collins announced she would oppose an important procedural vote on the legislation this week. Along with potential opposition from Johnson, Paul and Heller on the vote, that could leave leadership struggling to even advance to a final vote on the health care bill.

Collins said that the bill’s Medicaid cuts hurt the most vulnerable and that it doesn’t fix problems for rural Maine.

Murkowski has not taken a position but has also expressed concerns about the impacts on a rural, Medicaid-dependent population, as well as funding cuts to Planned Parenthood.

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THE TWO-ISSUE SENATORS

Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia are generally reliable votes for GOP leadership. In this case, both have two specific, and related, concerns causing them heartburn on the health bill: The prevalence of opioid addiction in their states, and their constituents’ reliance on Medicaid.

In many cases, voters with addiction problems rely on Medicaid for treatment help, and Portman and Capito both represent states that expanded Medicaid under Obama’s law.

Last year about 100,000 low-income West Virginia residents with Medicaid coverage had drug abuse diagnoses, according to state health officials.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum blasts Republicans for hiding ‘immoral disaster’ of Senate health care bill

Andrew Gillum blasted Senate Republicans Tuesday for “hiding” behind its Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, an “immoral disaster” which is being written largely behind closed doors and without Democrat input.

But the Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Florida Governor is not the only one. Gillum is part of a growing chorus of disapproval coming from both sides of the aisle.

Several Senate Republicans have also criticized their own party, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who questioned the lack of transparency in the process.

“The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Rubio said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Despite Republicans wanting to vote on the bill is soon as next week, there has been, so far, no legislation presented for examination and few lawmakers (of either party) who even know what is in the proposal.

On Monday evening, Democrats took to the Senate floor for a series of lengthy speeches chastising Republicans — notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — for trying to push through a massive “back door” bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In response, Gillum released a statement giving somewhat backhanded praise to Rubio for cautioning against ramming a health care bill through the Senate.

“Senate Republicans are hiding their health care bill for one reason only: it’s an immoral disaster that will likely take health care away from more than 20 million Americans,” Gillum said. “Health care is a right in this country and state, and they are hiding behind closed doors because they don’t want us to know the truth.

“I was heartened to see Senator Rubio raise the transparency issue this weekend — if he feels so strongly about it, he should refuse to vote for it unless it receives full scrutiny.

“I’m glad his Democratic colleagues held the floor last night — we need to put up as many obstacles as possible to prevent Republicans from passing this bill that threatens the quality of life for so many Floridians.”

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