An amendment from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller expressing the Senate’s support for maintaining funding to the Medicaid program while repealing the Affordable Care Act suffered a quick and overwhelming defeat during a Wednesday afternoon vote.
The procedural vote to move forward with the amendment, which failed 10-90, faced opposition from both conservative Republicans, who would like to see cuts made to the government-funded insurance program, and from Democrats, who would like to see the Affordable Care Act stay in place. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged the amendment on the grounds that it violated the Budget Act, and not enough senators supported waiving the applicable sections for a vote on Heller’s measure to proceed.
“I’m glad that the senator from Nevada is concerned about Medicaid. But I would just remind the Senate that yesterday the vast majority of Republicans voted to throw 15 million people off of Medicaid on their way to end Health insurance for 22 billion Americans,” Sanders said before the vote. “Our job as a nation is to guarantee health care to every man, woman and child and join the rest of the industrialized world.”
Before the vote, Heller highlighted parts of the so-called “sense of” amendment that say states should incentivize states to prioritize Medicaid services for the most medically needy individuals and the Senate should not consider legislation that reduces or eliminates benefits or coverage for current Medicaid-eligible individuals. So-called “sense of” amendments or bills aren’t legally binding, but are generally used to express the majority opinion of Congress.
“I want everybody to express for their own states how important the Medicaid program is for their states and I would urge a yes vote from my colleagues,” Heller said.
The amendment stated the Senate should review the issue of Medicaid expansion and health care coverage for low-income Americans and shouldn’t consider any legislation that discourages states from expanding the program or shifts costs to states.
The text of the amendment also stated that the Affordable Care Act — of which the Medicaid expansion is a part — should be repealed, arguing that it increases health care costs, limits patient choices, and forces people to buy pricy insurance. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would slash funds to states like Nevada that opted into Medicaid expansion.
In introducing the amendment, Heller reiterated that he couldn’t support a health care bill “balanced on the backs” of Nevada’s poorest and sickest residents made by cutting the expanded Medicaid populations.
It also recommends that the ACA be replaced with “patient-centered legislation” that provides access to quality, affordable health care while strengthening Medicaid and giving states the flexibility needed to implement the program.
Heller's office did not respond to a request for comment for more information about the amendment.
Reporter Riley Snyder contributed to this report.