This Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) reaffirmed his support for a Trumpcare bill that does what Heller himself vociferously claimed to oppose less than three months ago. Back in Nevada, local health care advocates gathered to debunk Heller’s spin and ask him to stand by his earlier promise not to take health care coverage away from any Nevadan.

Where does Heller stand on health care now?

In June, Heller stood alongside Governor Brian Sandoval (R) in promising to block any Trumpcare proposal that revokes health care coverage Nevadans gained under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). Just a month later, Heller cast the deciding vote to advance Trumpcare… Then voted for the “skinny repeal” version of Trumpcare that Sandoval strongly opposed.
After the Senate rejected “skinny repeal” late in July, Heller signed onto the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare bill that converts federal funding for Medicaid and the state health insurance exchanges into block grants. The bill also cuts overall federal funding for Medicaid and the state insurance exchanges by $80 billion. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller bill calls for the complete elimination of federal support for ACA Medicaid expansion and the state exchanges in 10 years.
Despite this bill proposing the exact opposite of what Heller promised in June, he doubled down his support on Wednesday. He told Talking Points Memo that Nevada would see a 30% increase in federal health care funding under his bill. Health care experts have debunked Heller’s claim by pointing out the bill’s health care budget cuts. According to analysis done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Nevada stands to lose $639 million in health care funding under Graham-Cassidy-Heller.

“Senator Heller, your bill will pull the plug on us. […] Please explain to me why our lives are not important.”
– Laura Packard

Photo by Andrew Davey

In Las Vegas, health care advocates called on Senator Heller not to go back on his word. Cancer survivor Laura Packard also pointed out the consequences of Heller’s health care flip-flops. “My Senator, Senator Heller, has made it harder for us to keep our health insurance. […] Since my insurance is keeping me alive, this is an important fight for me.”

Nevada health care advocates speak out against the Graham-Cassidy version of Trumpcare that Senator Dean Heller has signed onto. Congressional Republicans are trying to pass the bill by the end of the month.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Since Packard obtains her health insurance on the state ACA exchange (Nevada Health Link), she is among the Nevadans who would likely lose coverage under the Graham-Cassidy-Heller version of Trumpcare. “Senator Heller, your bill will pull the plug on us. […] Please explain to me why our lives are not important.”

“Frankly, people are going to die if this goes through.”
– Joe Merlino

Photo by Andrew Davey

We first spoke with local cancer survivor and health care activist Joe Merlino in early August, just after Senator Heller voted for the “skinny repeal” version of Trumpcare. On Wednesday, we caught up with Merlino and asked him about Heller’s latest health care gambit. Merlino was blunt in his assessment: “It just seems like all they’re doing is repackaging the same package of dirt, then handing it to us with a new bow on it.”

Merlino then called out Heller’s false claim that budget cuts and block grants would somehow mean more federal health care dollars for Nevada. “Senator Heller has a history of saying one thing and doing another. That’s exactly what he’s doing right now.”
Merlino recalled how ACA’s Medicaid expansion saved his life, then helped him recover so he could reenter the workforce last year. “Right now, it’s the Medicaid expansion that’s helping hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.” He then explained the human consequences behind all the ugly numbers: “Frankly, people are going to die if this goes through.”