HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The Affordable Care Act has added 21 million Americans to insurance rolls, two-thirds of them through Medicaid, and 20 Republican senators represent states that expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Governors, of course, don’t get to vote on any congressional legislation, but they do have a big voice and stake in health care.
At this week’s national governors association in Providence, Rhode Island, there was bipartisan skepticism and even resistance to the Republican plan.
“Washington Post” reporter Sean Sullivan was at the governors’ gathering and joins me now from Washington.
The governor’s association summer meeting not usually something that we care much about. But right now, why are the spotlights so tuned in on this conversation?
SEAN SULLIVAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this is usually a really low key affair that doesn’t generate a lot of news. But this time, it was a closely watched gathering and the reason was health care.
A lot of Republican senators who are on the fence right now about voting for this Senate bill are looking to their home state governors, they’re looking to them for guidance. They’re looking to see how they respond to this bill because in the end, it’s going to be the governors that are going to bear a lot of the responsibility for some of the coverage losses that may come about as a result of this bill, some of the cuts to Medicaid that may come about as a result of this bill.
And so, they are watching these governors very closely before they ultimately say, am I going to vote yes? Am I going to vote no? And there are a lot of skeptical governors.
SREENIVASAN: And Brian Sandoval, the governor from Nevada, seems to be the belle of the ball here. He seems to have a lot of sway.
SULLIVAN: Yes. If you’re going to watch one Republican and you want to figure out how this whole thing is going to shake out, whether this bill is going to pass or not, you should watch Brian Sandoval. He is very, very popular in the state of Nevada. He was the first Republican governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And he said he is really, really worried about the cuts to Medicaid, the long term federal spending cuts to Medicaid that this Senate bill would impose.
He met individually with Vice President Pence, with other administration officials. He listened as Pence gave a long detailed speech. He listened during a breakfast where administration officials explained he should get behind this. But even after 48 hours of that hard sell, he was still skeptical. He still has his worries.
SREENIVASAN: Something else that’s concerning a lot of governors seems the amount of money dedicated for opioid addiction, opioid addiction relief and how these states are going to have to deal with this significant crisis that they have on their hands.
SULLIVAN: Yes, this was something that was added to the latest version of the bill at the request of a couple of Republicans from Ohio and West Virginia. They added a dedicated $45 billion fund to treat opioid addiction, you know, in these states across the country. And the governors we talked to were pleased, and they said, look, this is a step in the right direction. But a lot of skeptics say, look, $45 billion, you know, given pretty big cuts that we’re seeing to federal funding of Medicaid in the long term, you know, that’s not a lot.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Sean Sullivan of “The Washington Post”, thanks so much.
SULLIVAN: Thanks, Hari.