Raimondo: Senate GOP health care bill would be ‘devastating’ to RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday she is deeply concerned about U.S. Senate Republicans’ proposed health care bill, suggesting Rhode Island would struggle to handle the deep cuts to Medicaid funding the party’s leaders are contemplating.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with Obamacare,” Raimondo told reporters. “If the Senate passes the bill before them, that is devastating to Rhode Island. Everything’s on the table. We’re going to have to revisit everything.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday scrapped plans to hold a vote on the health bill this week after multiple Republicans indicated they could not support it in its current form. But President Trump and other GOP leaders have insisted they want a vote on the bill soon, arguing the Obama health law is collapsing.

“We all agreed that, because the markets are imploding, we need to reach an agreement among ourselves here as soon as possible and then move to the floor after the recess,” McConnell said after a White House meeting Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

Medicaid, the health program for low-income individuals, makes up roughly one-fourth of Rhode Island’s state budget, with about $2.4 billion in spending and 325,000 enrollees last year. About half of that cost is picked up by the federal government. The Congressional Budget Office said this week the GOP health bill would reduce federal Medicaid funding by 26% by 2026 compared with what it would be under current law.

An estimate by the Center for American Progress, a liberal group that supports the Obama health law, suggested the Senate bill would result in about 46,000 fewer Rhode Islanders having health insurance in 2026, with 35,300 fewer on Medicaid and 10,600 fewer buying private insurance.

“The mess in Washington is creating great uncertainty,” Raimondo said. She cited unexpectedly weak tax revenue this year in many states, including Rhode Island, which she attributed in part to companies holding back on spending until Congress makes clear its plans on tax reform.

Rhode Island is already expected to face growing budget deficits in the coming years, with the annual shortfall forecast to rise from $140 million in 2018-19 to $223 million in 2021-22, according to the House Fiscal Office.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook