PALCO, Kansas — Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) rattled off a litany of concerns with the Senate GOP plan to dismantle Obamacare Thursday, stressing to an overflow crowd in this tiny rural town that he would not support the existing draft as written.
During a town hall in this largely conservative area, Moran called it “troublesome” that Kansas, which did not expand Medicaid under Obamacare, would have to help shoulder the entitlement’s costs in states that did under the GOP plan. Moran also raised concerns about “people with disabilities, the frail and elderly” when it came to potential changes to Medicaid, a program that Moran said “has significant value.”
Moran was a surprise defector against leadership’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans will almost certainly not be able to pass a bill without his support.
Still, he made clear his opposition to Obamacare, telling the crowd of about 150 people that after visiting with all 127 hospitals in this state, “there is not a hospital that I could find in Kansas that is financially better off as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” But he also danced away from the “full repeal” rhetoric that has dominated the Republican Party in the seven years since Obamacare was signed into law.
“The Affordable Care Act creates significant difficulties that still need major attention,” Moran told reporters after the town hall. “But I think at this point, it’s time to figure out how… to get rid of the bad things and improve on the things that need to be improved.”
The second-term GOP senator also took issue with the largely secretive process that Senate Republicans have used to hammer out their Obamacare repeal plan.
“What I wish would’ve happened, and what I encouraged to happen, unsuccessfully, was, we ought to try to do this in a way in which we all have a way to present our ideas, to have committee hearings, allow experts and the public to testify and give people a chance to get comfortable or uncomfortable with whatever the proposal is,” Moran told the crowd in Palco.
He added: “That’s not the circumstance we find ourselves in, and it’s probably not the circumstance that’s gonna happen in the near future.”
The concerns from Moran add to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s growing list of headaches as the GOP struggles to accomplish their years-long goal of unraveling President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. McConnell can only lose two GOP votes to successfully pass a repeal measure in his chamber, and the list of waffling Senate Republicans is far longer.
“I think there are many senators — more senators than are having town hall meetings — more senators out there that have genuine concerns with this legislation,” Moran told reporters after the town hall.
Moran is one of only a few Senate Republicans who are meeting constituents face-to-face in town halls during the July 4 break. The Kansas senator, who does his own statewide tour of all 105 counties every two years, plans to appear at two more town halls on Friday.
Rooks County, where Palco is located, gave Trump 84 percent of the vote last November. Nonetheless, Moran found little support for the Senate Republicans’ draft to repeal Obamacare at a local youth center in Palco, where about 300 people live.
Protesters and liberal activists from Kansas City and other major urban centers flooded Moran’s Palco town hall, some wearing pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts and many cheering when audience members touted the benefits of the single-payer option. Attendees repeatedly thanked him for meeting with members of the public in a freewheeling town hall setting.
But plenty others made the long trek to northwestern Kansas to air their concerns to Moran, particularly with the $772 billion in cuts to Medicaid under the Senate Republican bill.
“My nursing home, we have 48 people who receive Medicaid and that’s a huge amount of my population,” said Becky Burke of Manhattan, Kan., who said she voted for Moran last fall. “I don’t want their care or services to be impacted. I want us to have good staff. I want us to be able to buy them good food … I worry about these kind of cuts.”