Pence takes GOP healthcare pitch to Florida

Pence takes GOP healthcare pitch to Florida
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence headed to Florida on Saturday to rally support for the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

"The bill moving through the Congress ... is an important step in the right direction," Pence said during a speech at a paper company in Jacksonville. "Just yesterday President Trump made it clear -- he supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do."

Pence made a pitch for the GOP healthcare plan during another speech before the Club for Growth, one of several conservative groups that blasted the plan early this month and threatened to record the names of Republicans who voted for it unless it was changed.

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"Make no mistake about it, our plan is pro-growth and pro-freedom," Pence said during remarks in West Palm Beach, pitching aspects of the plans such as its provision repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate penalties and its expansion of health savings accounts.

"We need your help to get this plan passed," Pence said.

"I know that there have been concerns expressed with the bill as it currently stands. And just know that the president and I are and our entire administration are listening. We’re working with members of Congress to improve the bill and to make this bill even better than it already is."

It's the second consecutive weekend that Pence has hit the road to pitch the GOP plan, following a visit to Kentucky last Saturday.

His Florida trip is part of the White House's full-court effort to rally support for the proposal, which is slated to be voted on Thursday.

The plan faces a difficult path. Assuming all Democrats vote against it, Republicans cannot afford more than 21 defections, and at least 17 House Republicans have come out against the proposal, according to The Hill's Whip List.

Pence on Saturday pitched several new additions to the bill designed to give states options when it comes to their own healthcare programs.

The measures were also aimed at attracting support from conservative lawmakers, a number of whom have opposed the GOP plan.

"First off, we are going to stop any more states from expanding Medicaid and adding a burden to future generations" Pence said in Jacksonville.

"We are going to give states an option of block grants of Medicaid ... so states like Florida can innovate and design Medicaid around the unique needs of people in this community," he added.

The vice president said that the states will be allowed to include a work requirement provision for Medicaid.

"We are going to allow states like Florida to include a work requirement for able bodied adults insuring that Medicaid's benefits are available for those who need them most," he said.

Some GOP governors from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have expressed opposition to the Republican plan, voicing concerns that federal funding would be slashed for their states.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), whose state opted in 2015 not to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, introduced Pence at the Jacksonville event Saturday. He referenced a threat from the past administration to cut funding for a program unless his state approved the expansion.

"In our case, we had to sue the Obama administration [to keep] a Low Income Pool program ... because we didn't expand Medicaid. That should never be happening," Scott said.

Updated: 12:30 a.m.