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Rob Portman Hints That He'll Support Latest GOP Health Care Bill

Rob Portman speaking
Gage Skidmore
Flickr Creative Commons
Ohio Senator Rob Portman

Ohio’s U.S. Senators appear to be split on the latest attempt to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has been against it, but now we know more about how the state’s Republican Senator feels.

In a conference call with reporters, Rob Portman seemed to be leaning toward supporting what’s been called the Cassidy-Graham bill, which would cap Medicaid, and reduce federal funding and distribute it to states as block grants to use as they see fit.

“I think Ohio will do a good job – better than the federal government, probably because we know what the needs are, closer to what those needs are, like the opioid addiction," Portman said.

Ohio and the other 31 states that expanded Medicaid would see that funding phased out. Portman previously said he wouldn't support a health care bill that took away Medicaid coverage.

One thing Portman has remained consistent on: his view that the Affordable Care Act is not working.

"We have no real competition," Portman says."We have 42 of our 88 counties only have one insurer now, which is not competition. Twenty-seven other counties just have two insurers. That's the reason costs are so high."

As NPR reports, Cassidy-Graham allows people under 26 to stay on their parents' plan (a popular measure of the ACA) but does not guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. 

It also places a one-year block on federal reimbursements for Planned Parenthood services, waives requirements to cover mental health care, and offers tax cuts to wealthy people through health savings accounts.

And it also won’t include $45 billion in additional funding for the opioid crisis, something that Portman advocated for and the GOP’s previous repeal-and-replace bill contained.

"I like the approach of Graham-Cassidy in the sense that it's a theory I've always supported, which is we're giving states more flexibility to design programs that actually meet our needs," Portman said.

Brown tweeted that the Cassidy-Graham plan "is just as dangerous as every repeal plan we've seen so far," saying that it slashes opioid treatment and allows states to eliminate "essential health benefits."

Gov. John Kasich, who signed a letter opposing the bill with a bipartisan group of governors, tweeted that it “eliminates the guardrails that protect some of the most vulnerable among us.”