Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

Amodei Casts Deciding Vote for “Trumpcare” in Congress, Nevada Legislature Weighs in on Health Care Debate

As the U.S. House finally narrowly voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA, or Trumpcare), the Nevada Legislature held another hearing on a resolution urging Congress not to pass this or other legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). Once again, Donald Trump’s ambitions and Congress’ messy health care debate took center stage… Along with Nevada’s lone House Republican’s sudden change of tune.

At last month’s Reno town hall, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) both expressed their discomfort with the AHCA. They both committed to protect Nevadans’ health care coverage and the state’s budget. Amodei even joined Heller in promising to protect federal funds for Planned Parenthood health care programs.

Yet yesterday, Rep. Amodei flip-flopped and voted to pass AHCA/Trumpcare.

After House Republican leaders’ failed to pass AHCA in March, they made multiple attempts to find language acceptable to the far-right House Freedom Caucus. They finally settled upon new language that violated earlier Republican promises to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. In addition, the bill threatens funding for Planned Parenthood health care programs that some 18,000 Nevadans rely upon.

Regardless, Rep. Amodei voted to pass AHCA. Nevada’s other three U.S. Representatives, Dina Titus (D-Paradise), Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), and Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), all voted against. Amodei tweeted a statement on his vote… That mostly contradicted what’s actually in the Trumpcare bill. I reached out to Rep. Amodei’s office for further clarification on his sudden change of heart. Thus far, they’ve only referred me back to the statement he tweeted.

Amodei then ran into heavy criticism for his AHCA vote inside his own district.

Mark Amodei is from Carson City, and his district includes Carson City. It was probably no coincidence that the Nevada Legislature’s Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections (LOE) Committee heard SJR 8 yesterday. Still, the U.S. House’s sudden AHCA vote added an air of contentious volatility to the #NVLeg hearing.

SJR 8 sponsor Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) condemned just about everything in AHCA, from its $880 billion cut to Medicaid programs that Nevadans rely upon to its increase in seniors’ insurance costs by as much as 750%. She particularly noted AHCA’s costs to Nevada. “There will be about 370,000 Nevadans who will lose their health care coverage, and the State of Nevada will lose $1 billion in Medicaid funds.”

One of those affected Nevadans then spoke up during testimony.

“It’s personal. I’m only one of millions of people affected. […] I don’t know what Congress is thinking. I won’t sleep here very well tonight.” – Priscilla Maloney, Reno

Priscilla Maloney is a recent breast cancer survivor. She also happens to be one of Amodei’s constituents. During her testimony at the Nevada Legislature, she explained how the AHCA would affect nearly all Nevadans, from Medicaid expansion to its guaranteed coverage rules and consumer subsidies. “There are parts of the ACA touching every insurance policy in this nation. It’s not hypothetical. It’s real.”

Just before the U.S. House vote I spoke with Meredith Levine, Director of Economic Policy for the Guinn Center. She went through AHCA’s potential impact to Nevada.

“We’re getting 90% of federal money for ACA. If that gets pulled back, the question becomes, ‘Do you kick people off Medicaid, or do you find a way to keep people covered?'” Meredith Levine, Guinn Center

“If the expansion is eliminated, the likely outcome is people will be eliminated from the rolls [if the state doesn’t invest the money needed to keep them on].” Levine noted several #NVLeg bills, such as AB 249, AB 374, SB 233, and SB 394, to protect Nevadans’ ACA benefits and expand upon them. Those bills don’t come cheap, as Medicaid expansion alone brings $1 billion in federal funds to the state. Expect legislators and Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) staff to closely monitor any future health care legislation emanating from the U.S. Senate.

Just before the U.S. House vote, Senator Dean Heller released a statement reiterating his opposition to the AHCA. He’s now considered one of the most critical votes on any future Senate health care bill. Rep. Amodei just handed him the ultimate political hot potato. How will Heller handle it?

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