Scott: Senate health care vote is ‘disappointing’

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he is disappointed the U.S. Senate has voted to begin debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a clearly defined path forward.

Scott, in a telephone interview from Aspen, Co., where he is attending the Republican Governors Association quarterly meeting, said health care has dominated the two-day summit.

Gov. Phil Scott (VPB/Neal Goswami)

“Suffice it to say, there are lot of differing opinions on what’s happening and what’s best for our individual states,” the governor said.

Some states, like Vermont, have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose significant federal funding under the plans pushed by Republicans in Congress. As a result, Scott said there is no consensus among the 33 GOP governors on whether Congress should be moving forward with efforts to repeal the ACA.

“I think most agree that the ACA in its present form isn’t sustainable and something has to change, but that something is the question,” Scott said. “There is consensus that governors would like to provide input. To date, neither the president nor Congress have taken the advice that governors have provided.”

Scott said he remains opposed to repealing the ACA without a better understanding of what will be enacted in its place.

“I see nothing good of what’s happening in Washington right now for Vermont. From my standpoint, I don’t see that this would be beneficial to Vermont at all. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling,” he said. “There’s a lot of trepidation.”

The Senate will be debating plans to roll back some elements of the law enacted under former Democratic President Barack Obama over the next several days. Scott said the best-case scenario for Vermont is that the Senate fails to pass a bill this week and is forced to start over.

“I believe the governors will play a role. If we get to a point, if this fails this week and nothing happens, then the governors will probably be in a position to provide more guidance,” he said. “If it fails to move forward at all, then I would say that many in Washington would be seeking some assistance from, I believe, the governors, on what would work for us.”

Some GOP governors have expressed a desire for Congress to approve block grants for Medicaid, a federal state partnership, that provides health insurance to low-income and disabled Americans. Scott said he is open to that idea if it provides funding based on the funding the state receives after expanding the program under the ACA.

“There is some merit to block grants and it could be beneficial to Vermont, but it really depends on the details. How much is the block grant? Where does it start from? Is it from the expansion?” Scott said. “We would like some flexibility because we’re doing some good things with Medicaid in particular. We could do some good things if we were given the flexibility and enough money to support it.”

For now, Scott said he is hopeful the Senate will fail to pass a repeal bill this week so the discussion can begin anew.

“There are some, including me, who believe we need to try to reach across the aisle to find some common ground. Otherwise, we’re not learning from the ACA when they forced that through,” he said.

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