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Nevada's GOP governor breaks with Heller on Medicaid expansion

Nevada's GOP governor breaks with Heller on Medicaid expansion

Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, is breaking with Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerHeller campaign slams GOP rival over six-figure nonprofit salary Juan Williams: Help Trump climb down from the wall GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races MORE (R-Nev.) and calling for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion to be preserved. 

Heller, who could be a key vote on the healthcare bill and is up for reelection next year, said last week that he supports a seven-year phase-out of the additional federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

But Sandoval appeared to reject that idea, instead saying he wants to keep the system the way it is, without any phaseout. 

“I think the House bill has a two-year ramp, I’ve heard seven, I’ve heard five," Sandoval told reporters Tuesday, according to The Nevada Independent. "Obviously my preference is that it stay the way it is, that has always been something that I’ve spoken for and fought for on behalf of the newly eligibles." 

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Sandoval defended the Medicaid expansion, which he said has provided coverage for over 200,000 people in Nevada. 

“It’s working — we have brought down our uninsured rate," he said. "We were one of the worst if not the worst in the country, to being one of the most improved rates in that regard.” 

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP leader: Congress may settle for pared-down immigration deal Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Key senator floats new compromise for immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) is also backing a seven-year phase-out of the Medicaid expansion funds. 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) who has also defended Medicaid expansion in the past, has taken a softer line than Sandoval, saying he is open to phasing out the federal funding if it comes with enough "flexibility."

It is possible some states could keep the Medicaid expansion even without the extra federal funds, but it would mean states would have to pour in more of their own money, which could prove difficult. 

Heller said last week that he wants to listen to Sandoval about Medicaid, so it is possible the governor's new comments could have an effect. 

"I want to make sure the governor's okay with some of the changes we make," Heller said. "It's one thing for me to sit back here and legislate it's another thing for the governor to have to run the program."