On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced the latest version of Trumpcare would not get a floor vote this week. The next day, Nevadans voiced their frustration over Senator Dean Heller (R) cosponsoring this Trumpcare bill as they urged Congress to pivot to legislation that could actually improve Nevadans’ health care.

Heller’s Trumpcare bill fails without a vote

Even though Heller voiced concerns about prior versions of Trumpcare cutting Medicaid and consumer insurance protections in June, he agreed to cosponsor the Graham-Cassidy version of Trumpcare that would have eliminated federal funds for Medicaid expansion by 2026. The bill also would have allowed insurers to charge more and deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Last Friday, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) sealed the fate of Graham-Cassidy when he announced he could not vote for the bill. But when Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) made public her opposition of the bill this week, that prompted McConnell to announce that no floor vote will even be recorded. Since Senate Republicans only have until Saturday to pass any version of Trumpcare on a party-line vote, this guarantees that Republicans will have to return to the drawing board on health care.

“[Heller] knows better. He knows that […] this bill will hurt Nevadans. He’s not listening.”
– Laura Packard, Las Vegas

Photo by Andrew Davey

We caught up with local health care activist and cancer survivor Laura Packard at PLAN’s Las Vegas office on Wednesday. While she voiced relief that Trumpcare is done (for now), she also expressed deep frustration over Heller supporting the very legislation he promised to oppose in June. “I wish that my Senator […] would focus his attention on making health care better for everyone […] Rather than blowing up the current health care system just because his rich donors tell him to.”

After Packard made a video that went viral, Senator Heller’s office reached out to express “sympathy”. Since then, Packard’s had a harder time getting Heller to pay attention to what she actually has to say about health care. “I appreciate your sympathy, but sympathy does not help me,” Packard told us. “What I need is affordable, comprehensive health insurance. I need that a lot more than a throwaway statement from my Senator.”

“We’re looking at nearly 17,000 people who would have lost treatment if the Affordable Care Act was repealed.”
– Dr. Erica Marquez, UNLV Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy

Community leaders and local health care advocates are discussing how #GrahamCassidy and other #Trumpcare proposals would have affected Nevada's efforts to combat opioid addiction.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Later that day, we traveled to Roseman University’s Summerlin campus to hear from additional health care advocates on how Graham-Cassidy and other versions of Trumpcare would hinder efforts to combat opioid addiction. Though the June version of Trumpcare included $2 billion for opioid treatment programs, that would have not have come close to covering all the Americans seeking treatment for opioid addiction who would have lost coverage due to Medicaid cuts.

Photo by Andrew Davey

At Roseman, we spoke with Dr. Erica Marquez from UNLV’s Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy about how Trumpcare would harm Nevada’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. “Medicaid has allowed us to fill the gap,” Marquez explained. “Medicaid was able to expand the amount of people we could provide treatment for. […] We’re looking at nearly 17,000 people who would have lost treatment if the Affordable Care Act was repealed.”

“This touches Nevada families. […] These dollars are a direct investment in our future.”
– State Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South)

Photo by Andrew Davey

We also spoke with State Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South). Not only has she worked on improving access to opioid treatment in the Nevada Legislature, but she’s also dealt with opioid addiction hitting her own family. “I can attest to the scourge it puts families through. […] These dollars are very important to our families.”

When asked about Heller’s support for various Trumpcare plans, Farley pointed out how the state depends on federal Medicaid funds to cover 17% of Nevadans. “This touches Nevada families. These dollars are important. These dollars are a direct investment in our future.”
Farley then issued her own call to action. “Congress needs to look at the national [opioid] problem and help us help our communities.” Thus far, neither Heller nor Senate Republican leaders seem to be taking up opioid treatment legislation any time soon. Instead, Donald Trump has insisted that Congressional Republicans keep Trumpcare on their radar as they move on to consider his tax cut proposal.