Democratic Governors Unite on Health Care at Salt Lake Forum

(CN) – A group of Democratic governors descended on Salt Lake City on Thursday to confer and share ideas on a subject many in the party think is the best to positively distinguish their platform from their Republican counterparts: health care.

Eight governors representing states from California to Maine spoke to reporters during a press conference, alternating between touting their own accomplishments on health care legislation and hitting President Donald Trump and Republican governors for trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“During a time when Republican governors are working to take away health care from hardworking families, Democratic governors are working to expand health care,” said Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. “With states that have Democratic governors, more than 2,500 health care bills have been enacted just since the first of the year.”

The governors shared some of their innovative approaches to reducing health care costs, whether it’s trips to the hospitals, prescription drug prices, out of pocket costs or the cost of insurance premiums.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said his state is experimenting with importing prescription drugs from Canada to reduce costs and capping the price of certain medications.

For instance, the cost of insulin has risen sharply in recent decades despite little technological innovation to warrant such increases.

“Coloradans like all Americans are tired of getting ripped off on health care costs,” he said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

California Governor Gavin Newsom it is important to view the innovations discussed by the governors against the backdrop of the case currently before the Fifth Circuit which threatens to gut the Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare.

“The backdrop is that these guys are hellbent on rolling that back and creating chaos,” Newsom said. “The Trump administration is doubling down on the court case and has no plan in place.”

The California governor – who has made a habit of verbally sparring with the Trump administration – said Republicans have been lucky so far that they’ve been unable to follow through on their rhetoric of dismantling Obamacare and would suffer profound electoral consequences should they ultimately succeed.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, said states need to be prepared to provide protections for people with pre-existing conditions and health care exchanges should the federal program get dismantled.

“We’re doing the work with state-based systems,” she said. “What else can you do?”

All the governors in attendance were quick to point out the opioid epidemic – with about 130 drug overdoses still occurring everyday according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is a forgotten aspect of health care policy.

“Expanding Medicaid on day one helped address the opioid epidemic,” said Governor Janet Mills of Maine.

Mills took over for her Republican predecessor in 2018, as part of the midterm election that saw Democratic gains not only in the House of Representatives, but also in statehouses across the country.

Her predecessor, the controversial Paul LePage, refused to distribute Narcan to state agencies and law enforcement throughout Maine. Narcan can help block the effects of opioid medication, particularly in the event of an overdose.

Mills signed an executive order on the first day of her administration, mandating the distribution of the counteractant to law enforcement and other state workers.

“We have saved 770 lives in the state of Maine as a result,” Mills said.

Questions for the assembled governors revolved around how the party could cut through the noise created by President Donald Trump and others in the GOP and make the 2020 election about issues like health care.

“We don’t have to do a lot to keep health care at the top of voters’ minds,” said Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak.

Governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Tony Evers of Wisconsin also attended the conference.

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