PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and a select group of Republican governors were summoned to Washington over the weekend to confer with Trump administration officials on the next steps in a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, spokespeople for the governors confirmed Monday.
Ducey flew to the nation’s capital on Sunday for the meetings, spokesman Patrick Ptak said. He joined Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson for talks on Monday with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.
The unscheduled trips come just days after a measure repealing parts of former President Barack Obama’s health care law failed in the U.S. Senate.
Hutchinson said in a statement that he was called to the working session at the White House with a small group of governors “to discuss options with the Administration to improve our healthcare system and to reduce long-term costs for our state and nationally.”
“Governors have a hands-on perspective, and I appreciate the White House’s acknowledgement of the importance of our viewpoint and their willingness to listen,” Hutchinson said. “It was a productive working session, and I am encouraged that there is a new commitment to finding a solution that is inclusive of the governors.”
A full list of attending governors wasn’t immediately available. None of the governors confirmed by The Associated Press to have been in the meetings announced their trips.
Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain cast the deciding vote against the measure that would have eliminated the mandate for individuals to buy insurance, suspended a requirement for businesses to provide employee insurance, delayed a tax on medical devices, and denied funding to Planned Parenthood for a year. After Friday’s vote, McCain called for the Senate to work with both parties on a new proposal.
The White House, however, is insisting that the Senate resume efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Ducey’s unexpected trip to Washington signals that work on a repeal of the law that Republicans oppose isn’t done. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Friday that the governor was “disappointed that Congress will be taking a recess without repealing Obamacare.”
“However, the latest votes can’t be the end of the effort,” Scarpinato said in Friday’s statement. “The problems with Obamacare and the health care insurance markets are real and continue, especially in Arizona.”
The White House meetings come as multiple efforts are underway in Congress to try to find new ways to reshape parts of Obama’s health law, none of which yet seem to have good prospects of passing.
Ducey pushed back against parts of the original proposal to repeal the health law that dramatically cut Medicaid, which currently insures about 1.9 million of the state’s 6.8 million residents. He pushed for a slower phase-out of higher Medicaid expansion matches, higher inflation adjustments, elimination of a penalty for states that expanded parts of Medicaid early, as well as explicit flexibility for the program.
Both McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake said they were listening to the governor’s concerns.
Ducey, McCain and other Arizona Republicans do want major changes to the individual marketplace, however. Arizona has seen the number of insurers offering plans drop dramatically, and average premiums skyrocketed by 116 percent this year. However, more than 85 percent of the approximately 140,000 Arizonans who had bought plans on the individual marketplace in Arizona as of March 1 get tax subsidies to help pay for their premiums.
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Alan Fram in Washington, and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the number of people with individual insurance policies in Arizona is about 140,000, not nearly 200,000.