Why 4 Oregon Republicans voted to buck their party and give undocumented kids Medicaid.

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Posted on: July 6, 2017

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Several Oregon Republicans just joined the state's Senate Democrats to pass a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to undocumented children.

The "cover all kids" bill was approved on July 3, 2017, in a 21-8 vote.

"We could get wrapped up in sanctuary this, sanctuary that. We could get wrapped up with immigration this or immigration that," Sen. Jeff Kruse told KGW-Portland. "This is not about the optics or the politics. This is about health care at a reasonable cost."

Four GOP senators voted for the measure, bucking the majority of their colleagues, who opposed it.

The bill now moves to the majority-Democratic statehouse, where it's expected to pass.

The proposed law would make up to 17,000 Oregonian children brought to the United States by their parents eligible for the program.

The bill's proponents claim the measure will lower costs by limiting expensive emergency room visits.

Groups like the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, which has been advocating the measure for years, believe the law will markedly improve health outcomes, leading to better educational attainment and economic benefits for the state.

While U.S. Senate Republicans continue to consider health care bill that would strip coverage from millions, some state and local GOP officials are working to preserve or expand coverage gains.

On June 30, Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill that would freeze enrollment in the state's Medicaid program, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

John Kasich. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Kasich additionally joined with two fellow Republicans, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Barker, and four Democratic governors to oppose the Republican-penned health care bill pending in the Senate.

The national debate over how to structure health coverage, and who should benefit, is far from over.

In 2016, California proposed a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase coverage on the state's Affordable Care Act exchange.

A  2014 poll found that a majority of in-state voters were in favor of the expansion while a September 2016 Rasmussen Reports poll found that nearly 60% of voters nationwide opposed it.

For now, in one state at least, a few Republican elected officials are putting the health of kids above politics — and their own careers.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

"I will look at folks with anger in their eyes and they will not listen to the answer that it is less expensive," state Senate minority leader Ted Ferrioli told KGW-Portland.

He voted for it anyway.



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