Sen. Jerry Moran’s vote is critical to the passage of the Senate health care bill. There are too many conservative senators who think the Better Care Reconciliation Act is an insufficient abrogation of Obamacare and too many centrists who are afraid of the impact it will have on hospitals, older and chronically ill citizens, premiums and the uninsured rates in their states. If the Republican leadership can’t sway enough of these skeptical lawmakers (10 of whom have expressed their opposition), the bill has no chance.
Moran’s recent criticism of the BCRA has given many Kansans hope that he’ll reject blinkered partisanship and vote in his state’s best interest when the time comes.
As Lindsay Wise notes in an article for McClatchy DC, Moran has a long history of making independent judgments on consequential legislation: “He’s withstood heavy pressure from his own party in the past on major legislation, sometimes by making himself scarce.” Wise cites Moran’s votes against the No Child Left Behind Act (one of the first major pieces of legislation proposed by President George W. Bush) in 2001 and the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2004 to demonstrate that he’s capable of resisting political pressure.
Chapman Rackaway chairs the political science department at the University of West Georgia (he used to be a professor at Fort Hays State University), and he points out that Moran is particularly keen to assert his independence when “his constituents tell him to go a different way than the party.” That’s exactly what many of his constituents are doing. At a town hall in western Kansas last week, more than 100 people showed up to express their anxiety about the BCRA. A similar event was held in Lenexa last month, where a restless crowd of 500 people demanded answers to their questions about the GOP’s chaotic effort to replace Obamacare.
And Moran doesn’t just have to rely on the feedback he’s getting in person. Considering the large proportion of Kansans who were in favor of expanding Medicaid in Kansas (the numbers have ranged from 62 percent to 82 percent over several surveys), it’s safe to assume that they aren’t thrilled about a bill that cuts Medicaid by $772 billion over ten years. Moreover, under the BCRA, Kansans will continue to subsidize states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act with no possibility of receiving the same federal support.
One of Moran’s major concerns about the Senate bill is the impact it will have on Kansas hospitals — especially in rural areas. A statement issued by Moran’s office explains that he has been hearing from hospital administrators who have grave doubts about the bill’s contents: “Nearly every hospital that has contacted the Senator in recent weeks has said that despite a few positive reforms … they would be more likely to face closure under the current text of the bill.” At a time when one-third of rural hospitals in the state are at risk of closure (according to 2016 study by iVantage Health Analytics), claims like these need to be taken seriously.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the Senate health bill will leave 22 million Americans uninsured by 2026 — one of many reasons why less than 20 percent of U.S. adults support it. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this staggering total includes 120,000 Kansans. It has never been more important for Moran to oppose his party.
Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.