Spotlight Exclusives

McAuliffe, Lance Call for Bipartisan Health Talks

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

The failure of the Senate health care bill should prompt bipartisan cooperation on reforms to the Affordable Care Act, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) said Tuesday.

McAuliffe and Lance appeared at The State of Mental Health Care: Challenges and Solutions, a discussion sponsored by The Hill and the National Council for Behavioral Health at the Newseum.

McAuliffe said he was pleased to hear the news late Monday night that the Senate bill did not have the support necessary to move forward. “It’s great news that it’s dead. I thought for a while it was going to be dead,” McAuliffe said. He said the Senate bill would have resulted in about $1.4 billion in cuts for Virginians, and when he raised the issue with Trump administration officials at last week’s National Governor’s Association meeting in Providence, R.I., “they didn’t have good answers . . . It was all hocus pocus.”

Both McAuliffe and Lance, who was one of 20 Republicans to vote against the House health care reform bill in May, said the ACA needs reforms but the only politically viable way to do that is through a bipartisan process that includes public hearings.

“This is a partisan city,” Lance said, but suggested that the difficulties experienced by the GOP majority in Congress in passing an ACA replacement could provide an “opportunity to suggest that our GOP colleagues come to the table.”

He said preliminary talks had begun between a few House Republicans and Democrats, with one possibility under discussion being finding a few discreet parts of the ACA that could be the basis for bipartisan agreement.

As for the headaches experienced by his party’s House and Senate leadership on health care, Lance paraphrased President Trump. “As it’s been said, health care is hard.”

Lance and McAuliffe also found common ground on their belief that incarceration often takes the place of providing mental health services in the United States.

“Putting someone in prison today who has a substance abuse problem is the worst thing you can do,” McAuliffe said. Lance agreed, saying that “we incarcerate far too many people in this country. We have to examine as a society the fact that our incarcerated population is greater than most industrial societies.”

McAuliffe defended his decision not to stop the execution of convicted murderer William Morva earlier this month, despite pleas from his supporters that Morva’s mental illness deserved clemency. The governor said he believed Morva received a fair trial and that he did not have sufficient new evidence to overturn the jury’s verdict.

Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, opened the event by urging the audience to not become complacent in lobbying for stronger health coverage in light of the failure of the Senate bill.

“We may have a reprieve today but the battle for health care as a right, and not a privilege, is not over,” she said.

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