WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence took to Anchorage's conservative radio airwaves Thursday evening to urge listeners to support the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is moving through the Senate.
Pence called in to "The Dave Stieren Show" on KFQD and "The Mike Porcaro Show" on KENI. He praised the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill and urged listeners to call Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and urge them to vote for the bill next week.
Pence, who has been the White House lead on the Obamacare repeal effort for months, said the latest bill is the best option.
It "gives us the best opportunity we've had yet to lift the burden of Obamacare off the people of Alaska and, frankly, send the resources that the federal government is now spending in health care out of Washington, D.C., and to every state capital in America so that the people of Alaska, the people of my home state of Indiana, and all 50 states will be able to craft health care solutions that will lower the cost of health insurance and expand access to health care coverage," Pence said on Stieren's show, according to transcripts provided by the Office of the Vice President.
On both shows, Pence said the two keys to the legislation were repealing the mandates that individuals buy and businesses provide insurance, and sending funding to the states through block grants so they can decide how to fund private markets themselves.
The bill would "also to redesign our health care system for the poor, known as Medicaid," Pence said.
"And what the Graham-Cassidy bill does is essentially says, look, let's let leaders in Juneau make these decisions instead of Washington, D.C.," Pence said.
On both shows, he pointed out the high cost of health care on the individual market in Alaska — the highest in the U.S. The cost on the Alaska market, which currently has only one insurer, has gone up 203 percent in recent years. But Premera plans will drop in price in 2018 by 26.5 percent, thanks to a government-approved "reinsurance" program put in place under the Affordable Care Act.
Pence had no bad words to say about Sullivan and Murkowski, though they have not yet said they will support the Graham-Cassidy bill, and Murkowski was one of three Republicans who voted against July repeal bills, tanking efforts in the Senate.
"Senator Dan Sullivan and Senator Lisa Murkowski are two outstanding legislators. And they've been great champions for Alaska on this legislation and in virtually every bill that moves through the Congress," Pence said.
Pence told Porcaro that both senators are friends of his, and that he has been working closely with them on the bill. Recent discussions with both senators' offices indicate they are still working through data to determine the bill's potential impact on Alaska.
Pence urged listeners to call both senators in support of the bill.