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Ohio's Senators Still Not On Board With Republican Health Care Plan

Ohio U.S. Sentators Rob Portman, left, and Sherrod Brown.

As Senators in Washington continue to grapple with how to reform the Affordable Care Act, Ohio’s two members explain why they have not embraced plans that have been introduced so far - and what needs to be done to win their support.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman didn’t support the initial plan in the Senate, named the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," because it could have hurt the state’s fight against opioids.

“Particularly for those who are impacted by the opioid epidemic in Ohio because Medicaid is an important payer for treatment,” he said.

Portman says he hasn’t had a chance to look at details of a new plan coming out of the Senate, though it does include $45 billion for opioid addiction treatment that he requested. In a statement Thursday, he said he wants to look at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of the revised bill when it becomes available.

The CBO score for the previous Senate bill said it would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026.

But Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who also didn’t support the earlier plan, says he won’t back anything that takes away health care services in exchange for giveaways to the wealthy.

“You don’t fix the Affordable Care Act by a $7 million a year tax cut to the 400 richest families in America,” Brown said. “You don’t fix by writing a bill that the drug and insurance companies will get huge tax cuts.”

In a statement on Friday, Gov. John Kasich reiterated his stance that the "Senate plan is still unacceptable" because of its cuts to Medicaid and lack of market stabilization.

"These shortcomings flow from the fact that the Senate plan commits the same error as Obamacare - it's not bipartisan," Kasich said.

While both Portman and Brown say they think there needs to be changes to the health care law, they don’t necessarily agree on which changes should be made. Brown has indicated he would be willing to talk with Republicans about improving certain areas of the Affordable Care Act – but cannot support the Senate plan to allow waivers for mandatory coverage.

Updated July 14: Added statement from Gov. John Kasich on the revised Senate plan.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.