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Ohio's GOP senator says health care bill needs more changes

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, center, speaks alongside former drug addiction treatment clients Gary Frazier, left, and Heather Padgett, during a roundtable discussion at the Adams Recovery Center for Women, Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Cincinnati. Portman discussed the importance of increased funding for addiction treatment and efforts to combat the ovoid epidemic in Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Associated Press

Published: July 11, 2017

LOVELAND, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's Republican senator said last week he remains concerned about future access to Medicaid for low-income Ohioans, particularly those receiving help for drug addiction treatment.

Sen. Rob Portman visited a drug recovery center in suburban Cincinnati last Wednesday. He said afterward that more changes are needed to a proposed Senate health care plan if it is to win his support.

The second-term senator and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from neighboring West Virginia, issued a joint statement against the proposed legislation's cuts to Medicaid.

Portman says he wants a plan that will improve the health care system while fighting the opioid epidemic that has hit Ohio particularly hard. He said the recent addition of $45 billion in federal funds to combat the opioid crisis was an important step.

"But I'm still concerned about the way in which Medicaid is dealt with in the proposal," he said. "So it still needs some help, needs some improvements, to get my support."

The Congressional Budget Office says Medicaid cuts in the Senate Republican health care bill would take a 35 percent bite off the program's projected spending by 2036.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich bucked fellow Republicans by expanding Medicaid under the Obama health care law. Some 700,000 Ohioans are now covered.

Kasich was critical of the Senate approach, which stalled over opposition from some conservative and moderate Republicans. No more than two of the 52 GOP senators can oppose the measure for it to pass.

Portman marched in Fourth of July holiday parades and attended a festival last week in his home state. He said he "got a lot of input from a lot of people," but said it was mixed with people divided over how to change health care and address increasing problems including rising rates and deductibles and exiting insurers.

"We're going to go back to work on it next week and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to come up with something that does fix some of these problems that we talked about that are really affecting a lot of families here in Ohio," Portman said.

Ohio's Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, spoke out against Medicaid cuts during a Thursday visit to Cincinnati where he met with addiction experts and law enforcement.