Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller said he has serious concerns about how the GOP’s latest proposal to overhaul federal health law would impact hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who depend on Medicaid, joining at least five other GOP senators with complaints after the highly anticipated draft was released Thursday.
Heller has not said how he’ll act on the bill, which is unlikely to move to a vote without several amendments.
“If the bill is good for Nevada, I’ll vote for it and if it’s not — I won’t,” Heller wrote in a statement.
He is a crucial vote for the Republican majority to realize its years-long promise to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s landmark health law, but Heller is facing a tough re-election next year in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton.
He opposed a similar version of the GOP overhaul that narrowly passed out of the House in May, but his stance became far less clear after the bill arrived in his chamber.
Among other things , the bill would phase out the extra federal assistance that has added more than 210,000 Nevadans to Medicaid.
The proposal would fully fund their coverage through 2020, and then gradually reduce the additional aid until it’s eliminated in 2024.
Two weeks ago, Heller indicated support for phasing out the expansion over seven years. He has repeatedly said he is generally interested in reforming “Obamacare.”
Heller said Thursday he will continue to heed the advice of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and constituents to determine how the bill could impact the state.
Nevada Democratic Party Chairman and Las Vegas Assemblyman William McCurdy called Heller’s statement disingenuous.
“Enough with the spineless equivocating, fraudulent press releases and hiding behind other politicians,” McCurdy wrote in a statement, adding Heller “owns” the effort to repeal-and-replace “Obamacare.”
Every Democratic member of Nevada’s congressional delegation reiterated their opposition to the Republican plan after it was released.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is gunning for Heller’s seat in the Senate, called it “a cruel bill that implements a crushing age tax on older Americans, weakens essential health benefits protections, defunds Planned Parenthood, and strips away access to care for our most vulnerable citizens.”
About 50 union nurses, hospital staff and progressive activists gathered outside University Memorial Center in Las Vegas around noon on Thursday, according to organizer Andres Ramirez, to protest the GOP bill and call on Heller to vote it down.