U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran came out against the latest version of the GOP’s healthcare plan late Monday, effectively killing its chances of passing the Senate.
Moran, who years ago was the first member of Congress to formally seek repeal of Obamacare, announced his opposition along with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The two defections are enough to prevent supporters from mustering the 50 votes needed.
"We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy," Moran said in a statement. "… We must now start fresh with 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 Kansans."
Moran’s "no" vote put the bill in further trouble. At least 10 senators publicly opposed the bill according to a CNN count last week.
And two other Republican senators had already expressed opposition to the measure. The Republican leadership could afford to lose only two GOP votes because all Democrats were expected to oppose it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is spearheading efforts to pass a healthcare bill, said in a statement after Moran and Lee’s announcement that the Senate will instead vote on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act with a two-year delay.
He said the gap will allow for a “stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to to quality, affordable care.”
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a statement.
After opposing an earlier version of the bill, Moran had taken a cautious approach to the revised legislation. Shortly after the July 4th legislative recess, he skipped a private Capitol lunch for Senate Republicans where colleagues discussed the healthcare legislation with Vice President Mike Pence and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
In his latest statement, Moran warned 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.
Moran also criticized the process of developing the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
"There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it," Moran said. "This closed-door process unfortunately has yielded the" Senate bill.
Moran’s dislike of the way the bill was developed echoed comments he made at a town hall in Palco earlier this month that attracted national media attention. At that forum and others, Moran heard from constituents who asked him to oppose the Senate legislation.
Moran was also hearing from the Kansas Hospital Association, which had said the bill didn’t adequately address the concerns of Kansas healthcare providers. The organization said cuts to Medicaid would reduce access to services for children, those with disabilities and seniors in nursing homes.
For Kansas, the earlier draft of the Senate bill’s Medicaid cuts could have caused Kansas’ rural hospitals to lose 450 jobs and $15.4 million in revenue within one year, according to a report from The Chartis Center.
The latest version of the legislation would have steered more money toward Kansas hospitals and prioritized the state for some Medicaid funding, changes urged by the state’s other senator, Pat Roberts, who supported the bill. Critics, like the hospital association, said the changes wouldn’t have made up for the deep cuts to Medicaid and other problems with the bill.
"We know this legislation increases the number of uninsured Kansans," said Cindy Samuelson, a spokeswoman for the association. "It also has higher hospital uncompensated care costs tied to it. Both those things put together really lead to health care costs being higher for Kansans and financial outcomes that are bad for Kansas."
The latest version of the bill hadn’t yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which said the earlier version could have increased the number of uninsured nationwide by 22 million in 2026 compared with the current law.
Moran’s decision was greeted warmly by opponents of the bill.
State Sen. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, said she was thrilled by it. "He must be listening," said Bollier, who was among the Republicans in the Kansas Legislature who advocated for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act earlier this year.
A vote on the latest Senate bill had been scheduled for this week but was delayed after Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, underwent surgery.
In his statement, Lee criticized the bill for "not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes," and for not doing enough to lower insurance premiums for the middle class.
Moran and Lee’s announcement came hours after President Donald Trump had appeared to promise legislative action to repeal Obamacare. At a White House event, Trump said "we’re going to get that done, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people."
But he also appeared to hint at the difficulty of passing a bill.
"The Republican senators are great people, but they have a lot of different states. Some states need this, some states need that. But we’re getting it together, and it’s going to happen. Right, Mike?" Trump said, turning to Vice President Mike Pence.
"Yes, sir," Pence replied.
Contributing: Hunter Woodall of The Kansas City Star and Lindsay Wise of McClatchy