Vice President Mike Pence was sent to the National Governors Association’s meeting in Rhode Island on Friday to convince skeptical Republican governors to back the Senate GOP’s health care bill.
But two of his claims — one broad defense of how the GOP bill would handle Medicaid, and one much more specific comment about waiting lists in Ohio — have Pence facing criticism from his own party.
In both cases, Pence omitted critical context.
Those omissions go to the heart of the concerns about the bill among many within the GOP. In at least two cases, Republicans cited Pence specifically in voicing their displeasure with the bill in recent days.
‘Strengthens and secures Medicaid’
Pence’s broad defense of the bill included this line: “President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society, and this bill puts this vital American program on a path to long-term sustainability.”
Behind closed doors, Pence and top Trump health officials who met with governors stuck to the technically true claim that Medicaid spending would continue to increase under the GOP bill.
However, the Senate Republican plan would spend $772 billion less on Medicaid over the next 10 years when compared to current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s a 26% cut in the year 2026 from what would be spent under current law.
And starting in 2025, it would attach growth in Medicaid spending to the Consumer Price Index instead of tying it to medical inflation. Standard inflation has grown at a much slower rate than medical inflation.
The CBO projected this would force states to shrink their Medicaid programs — leading to 15 million fewer Medicaid enrollees within the next decade. Many Republicans are preemptively discrediting the CBO’s analysis, though, ahead of a new score expected this week.
The plan maintains many of Obamacare’s subsidies to help people pay for individual insurance and provides money to stabilize the Obamacare market over the next few years. And, Pence and other top Republicans have argued, the Trump administration would grant states much more flexibility to make cost-saving changes to the traditional Medicaid program. Pence cited a plan he expanded in Indiana as one example.
“States across the country will have an unprecedented level of flexibility to reform Medicaid and bring better coverage, better care, and better outcomes to the most vulnerable in your states,” Pence said.
However, Democratic governors mocked the notion that increased flexibility could make up for major cuts in federal spending.
“They repeatedly pretended that the federal government saving hundreds of billions of dollars won’t translate to actual cuts,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy told CNN on the sidelines of the NGA meeting, after governors met privately with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. “I was told that I’ll innovate sufficiently to save them hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins also took issue with Pence’s claims on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
“I would respectfully disagree with the vice president’s analysis,” Collins said. “This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program, and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children, poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes. And they would have a very difficult time even staying in existence.
‘Stuck on waiting lists’
Pence cited by name another Republican who has criticized the GOP bill — Ohio Gov. John Kasich — while claiming his state, which is among the 31 states and the District of Columbia to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, now faces steep waiting lists for coverage.
Here’s what Pence said: “Obamacare has put far too many able-bodied adults on the Medicaid rolls, leaving many disabled and vulnerable Americans at the back of the line. It’s true, and it’s heartbreaking. I know Gov. Kasich isn’t with us, but I suspect that he’s very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.”
Experts from the Kaiser Family Foundation say that waiting lists for these services are longer in states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare than they are in states that have expanded.
Kasich didn’t attend the meeting. But back in Ohio, his aides lashed out, noting that the waiting lists are related to Medicaid’s home and community-based services and have nothing to do with Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
“The claim is not accurate. It’s been fact checked twice,” Kasich’s communications department said on Twitter, linking to fact-checks from The Los Angeles Times and the Columbus Dispatch.
Kasich consultant John Weaver took to Twitter to urge Pence to “stop spreading Fake News to further dishonest sales pitch on health care bill which hurts millions!”
Pence’s office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the Kasich camp’s criticism.