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Dean Heller’s Health Care Reversals & Broken Promises in the Spotlight

Nevada Senator Dean Heller is the key to why the Republican health care plan is back from the dead after his summer of reversals. With Heller now in the spotlight as a key architect of the GOP’s new repeal plan, his flip-flops on everything from protecting Medicaid to working with Governor Sandoval are adding up to a series of broken promises to Nevadans on health care.

CNN: Nevada’s Heller dogged by summer of reversals on health care

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller’s summer of reversals on health care have closely mirrored the gravest political threat he has faced in the moment.


In a bipartisan letter with other nine governors, and then in his own statement, Sandoval announced his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill Tuesday — leaving Heller without his most important home-state political ally.

Heller’s opponents say his twists and turns on health care show he was acting out of fear — first of the general election, and now of a primary.

Vox: Republicans aren’t voting for Graham-Cassidy. They’re just voting for Obamacare repeal.

For much of the debate, those Medicaid cuts and the end of Medicaid expansion were a nonstarter for many Republicans. That’s what Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) said earlier this year, as he stood besides Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and said he couldn’t support a bill that Sandoval opposed.

“This is all about Medicaid expansion,” Heller said, adding: “It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes.”

He is now a co-sponsor of Graham-Cassidy, even though Sandoval opposes it.

FiveThirtyEight: How Graham-Cassidy Caught The Democrats Napping

It’s not totally clear why Heller signed on to Graham-Cassidy. He may have assumed it would never actually come up for a vote. He may have been worried about re-election: Republican donors in Nevada were reportedly warning Heller that they wouldn’t give him money for his 2018 re-election effort unless he backed Obamacare repeal, and Trump suggested he would oppose Heller in a GOP primary if the senator didn’t join the cause. Or perhaps Heller simply believes in the Graham-Cassidy model of health care policy reform, which would send most Obamacare funds back to states. 

Either way, co-sponsoring the bill was an odd move for Heller, largely because he had previously suggested he would back only legislation that both preserved the expanded Medicaid funding Nevada had received through Obamacare and had the support of the state’s GOP governor, Brian Sandoval. Even in July, it was clear that Graham-Cassidy would likely reduce the number of federal dollars going to Nevada for Medicaid, which is further supported by recent estimates. Sandoval didn’t endorse the legislation back then, and this week he joined a bipartisan group of governors opposing it.

Talking Points Memo: Editor’s Blog: Dean Heller Was Full Of It After All

I confess that I’m feeling pretty good about sitting out the ‘Dean Heller might not actually be awful on taking away your health care’ market bubble from earlier this year. Now he’s a key driver of the latest push to repeal Obamacare. A pro-Obamacare group is already up with a digital ad campaign targeting Heller’s flip.

Talking Points Memo: After Medicaid Dance This Summer, Heller Backs New Bill That Would Gut Medicaid

This spring and summer, when Republicans pushed forward various Obamacare repeal bills that would deeply cut Medicaid spending, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) came out swinging, vowing not to support any bill that would go after either traditional Medicaid or the Medicaid expansion that has extended coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income people in his state. 

But Heller—arguably the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection next year—has now jumped on board a new bill that would deeply cut both over time.

Las Vegas Sun: Laura Packard: GOP’s new health bill will hurt Nevadans

During the congressional debate over Affordable Care Act repeal, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., committed both to opposing any bill that made Nevada worse off and not pulling the rug out from the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who gained coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

I’m battling stage 4 cancer. The last thing I need is to be battling my own U.S. senator as well. I was so relieved when Heller said he’d stand up for us. But I was devastated when he voted to repeal the ACA and let us all down.


But the senator has instead signed onto a last-ditch attempt at ACA repeal, one that would cause many millions of people to lose coverage, raise costs for millions more, and deeply cut and cap Medicaid. I need to keep my health insurance to stay alive. This latest GOP boondoggle, like all the others, puts people with pre-existing conditions at risk again. Including me. 

The proposal, released last week, would let states weaken protections for people like me with pre-existing conditions.

Shareblue: Most vulnerable Republican senator’s health care betrayal backfires badly

For the second time this year, Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada has been faced with protecting the health care of his constituents or protecting his own senate seat from a Trump-fueled primary opponent. For the second time this year, Heller has chosen to protect himself and hang his constituents out to dry.