Portman will not support repeal-only or Medicaid cuts

Published 11:35 am Monday, July 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has become one of the critical swing votes holding back efforts by House and Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act wholesale.

Before going on television Tuesday evening to express his concern over the current plan devised by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that would repeal the ACA without any replacement, Portman fielded questions from reporters in a conference call, where he expressed concerns not only about repeal only, but about any plan that would cut the expanded

Medicaid coverage that many Ohioans enjoy. This includes expanded access to addiction recovery and mental health services.

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“I’ve made my concerns very clear about the current system,” Portman said.

He noted that under the ACA healthcare costs for some have doubled over the last four years, while marketplaces have lost insurers.

“It’s a real problem,” he said.

At the same time, he said, some aspects of the ACA, like the expanded Medicaid coverage, have benefited “vulnerable” populations.

He said that he was not giving up on a repeal and replace option, and still had hopes that congress could come up with a plan that could win support across the aisle.

Because, he said, the problems with things like the destabilization of the insurance industry in Ohio under the ACA were undeniable.

“There are real problems,” he said, “and we can’t ignore them.”

He also responded to questions about President Trump’s comments that Congress should just allow the ACA to fail, and pin the responsibility on the Democrats.

When asked if that was good for Ohio, he said that he was not familiar with the context of the quote, and said that in the past, the President had followed up such statements with a comment about the need for replacement.

When pressed on the President’s comments, Portman said that he did have concerns about doing nothing at all.

“My concern is, if you just allow it to fail,” Portman said, “it will hurt people in Ohio. Whereas, if you have a replacement (people can get insurance).”

He said he would potentially support another House proposal, if it had a replacement option, but, he added, “I would not support just having a repeal vote.”

When asked about the possibility of expanding Medicare for younger people, Portman said that it was an “interesting idea” but that he thinks any replacement “will be focused on Medicaid.”

He said that he is currently working on a “Medicaid match, separate from traditional Medicaid.”

Portman also discussed a bill introduced with Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA, that would support the kind of job training required to begin addressing our nation’s needed infrastructure updates.

Their BUILDS Act would incentivize on the job training and support recruitment and retention for workforce training programs, among other career and technical education (CTE) issues.

“We need more robust CTE,” Portman said.