Pence campaigns for GOP health bill in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump is “100 percent” supporting the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act and calls it a “step in the right direction,” Vice President Mike Pence told a Florida audience Saturday.

“President Trump will give the American people the freedom to buy health insurance across state lines, the way you buy life insurance or car insurance,” he said.

Pence travelled to Florida as part of a continuing campaign to promote the Republican health care system overhaul.

The former Indiana governor appeared in front of dozens of supporters in the warehouse of a Jacksonville envelope supply company.

The Republican health care plan would undo much of the health care law passed under President Barack Obama, including Medicaid expansion and the imposition of tax penalties for people who don’t buy insurance.

So far the GOP’s bill has been met with fierce opposition — some of it from the party’s own members. In a review of the legislation released this week, the Congressional Budget Office estimates 24 million people would lose health care under the GOP plan.

Seeking to drum up new support, Trump on Friday agreed to new Medicaid curbs that appeased some House Republicans. On Saturday, Pence urged House Republicans like Rep. John Rutherford of Florida, who introduced the speakers, to keep fighting for repeal. He also sought to calm supporters’ concerns about the effort.

“We’re going to have an orderly transition to a better health care system in America that makes affordable, high quality insurance available to everybody,” he said.

Pence highlighted an amendment to the current GOP bill that would create an option of Medicaid block grants for states that want them.

Right now, when an eligible person enrolls in Medicaid there are matching federal funds to ensure that they get care. A block grant would cap that federal share, letting the states decide how to spend the dollars on care while they are on a much more limited budget.

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who appeared with Pence, on Friday asked the Trump administration for Medicaid block grants to replace the current system.

“We made a request … for more options, more choice and more flexibility,” Scott said.

But many health care professionals say capping Medicaid funding in block grants would instead hurt access to quality health care for the poor, children and the elderly by cutting the amount of federal dollars available.

“A true block grant would end the guarantee of affordable comprehensive health care for millions of Florida’s children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and seniors in long term care who rely on Medicaid,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, in an email.

“Should the Trump Administration accede to the governor’s request it will no doubt end up in court.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.