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Walker joins other governors in opposition to latest ACA repeal attempt

Gov. Bill Walker addresses the media in Anchorage on July 17. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

WASHINGTON — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, joined a bipartisan group of governors Tuesday in urging U.S. Senate leaders to drop the latest bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act and instead focus on bipartisan reforms.

"As you continue to consider changes to the American health care system, we ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans," Walker and nine others wrote to the Senate's top Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer.

The letter came in response to a renewed effort in the Senate to gather 50 votes for a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and revise Medicaid law before the end of the month. After Sept. 30, the time is up on a budget reconciliation measure that allows GOP leadership to pass a bill with only a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes usually required to avoid a filibuster.

After the repeal effort went down this summer — with help from Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski — the efforts shifted from Republican repeal to bipartisan reform. Walker and the other governors want the Senate to stick with that.

This month's hearings in the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee allowed lawmakers to negotiate "in good faith to stabilize the individual market. At the committee's recent hearing with Governors, there was broad bipartisan agreement about many of the initial steps that need to be taken to make individual health insurance more stable and affordable," they wrote.

The committee, which includes Murkowski, has held four hearings this month with the aim of producing more targeted legislation that would stabilize individual markets in the states. Murkowski has so far declined to say how she would vote on the so-called Cassidy bill, which focuses on sending states block grant funding to manage how they like. On Tuesday, she said that she has been in regular contact with Walker about the legislation and is continuing to review the numbers.

The governors said they don't want to see a Republican-only bill. "We ask you to support bipartisan efforts to bring stability and affordability to our insurance markets. Legislation should receive consideration under regular order, including hearings in health committees and input from the appropriate health-related parties," the letter said.

The governors asked lawmakers to control costs, stabilize markets and offer a positive outlook for Americans "who are dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems, and drug addiction."

The letter was signed by Republican Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Charles Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont and John Kasich of Ohio, as well as Democratic Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Steve Bullock of Montana, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Terence McAuliffe of Virginia and John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.

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