Linda Nelson (in wheelchair) and her husband Rodney Nelson hold signs in a demonstration by supporters of women’s health organization Planned Parenthood and opponents of the U.S Senate healthcare bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act on Thursday, July 6, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Linda Nelson (in wheelchair) and her husband Rodney Nelson hold signs in a demonstration by supporters of women’s health organization Planned Parenthood and opponents of the U.S Senate healthcare bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act on Thursday, July 6, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Residents rally for health care

Linda Nelson and her husband Rodney Nelson were among those who turned out in Kenai on Thursday to hold signs in a demonstration by supporters of women’s health organization Planned Parenthood and opponents of the U.S Senate healthcare bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Linda Nelson, a stroke victim who has difficulty moving and speaking, is among the 185,139 Alaskans who receive health coverage through Medicaid, according to a May 2017 report from the program’s state administrators, the Department of Health and Social Services. Rodney Nelson said Linda relies on Medicaid for mobility and home care, without which he would have to take on a full-time role as her caregiver.

The draft of the BRCA before the U.S Senate would replace the present uncapped expenditure of Medicaid funds, split 50-50 between state and federal governments, with a fixed amount for each Medicaid user paid to states from the federal government. Combined with an incremental withdraw of federal funding for the 33,945 Alaskans who gained Medicaid coverage when the state expanded the program in September 2015 (a population 95 percent covered by federal money), the bill would result in $3.1 billion less in Medicaid funding to the state by 2026, according to a DHSS analysis. To keep its current Medicaid coverage, the state would need to spend an additional 13 percent — about $1.2 billion — between fiscal years 2020 and 2026, DHSS calculated.

U.S Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are among the Republicans who have not committed to voting for the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would require 52 votes from the Senate’s narrow Republican majority to become law. Some of the signs that Thursday’s demonstrators held specifically urged Murkowski to oppose the bill with the slogan “Stay strong, Lisa.” Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) plan an amendment to remove another provision of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that would defund Planned Parenthood for a year.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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