Sen. Shelley Moore Capito suggested Thursday that the $45 billion in funding to fight opioid addiction added to the Republican healthcare bill would not be adequate on its own to win her support for the legislation.
"We've been pushing hard for the extra opioid money and it's critical," the West Virginia Republican told reporters. "Is it enough to push me into the yes? Not at this point."
Capito, a key centrist, is one of nine Republicans who oppose the bill, and she has said that other than funding for opioids in the bill's draft, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, she would like it to include more robust help for low-income people and people who live in rural areas, and to adjust the growth rate for Medicaid, which the current bill caps. She said she wants a growth rate that "matches the projected spending in Medicaid over 10 years." Conservatives, meanwhile, were pleased to see the changes to Medicaid in the bill and have long called for controls on spending in the government insurance program for the poor.Most senators are leaving Thursday for the July 4 weeklong recess. Republicans were aiming to submit a new healthcare draft to the Congressional Budget Office on Friday, and Senate leaders are working to reach consensus among various factions of the party. To pass the bill through reconciliation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cannot lose more than two votes, given that the bill will not have Democratic support and assuming a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
On Thursday, Pence met with Capito and other Republicans opposed to the bill.
Funding for Medicaid has been among one of the most contentious issues. Because it provides coverage for addiction treatment, particularly in states such as West Virginia that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, its defenders say it is key to staving off the opioid epidemic. Overdoses from opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin caused more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and West Virginia has been hit particularly hard.
Capito's West Virginia Democratic counterpart, Sen. Joe Manchin, also a centrist, called the funding for opioid treatment "terrific," but said it was inadequate in covering other provisions offered through Medicaid. Republicans haven't included Democrats in their healthcare talks, but individual members such as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have held meetings to see if a bipartisan approach to healthcare is possible.
"We need money to fight opiate," Manchin said. "But I can't throw grandma out of the nursing home, and I can't do away with all the other things for us to sell our soul on one issue."