Local KSN News
NEW YORK (AP) — Sears is closing another 20 stores as the ailing retailer tries to turn around its business.
Real estate investment trust Seritage, which owns the 20 real estate properties, confirmed the closings— 18 Sears stores and two Kmart stores — in a government filing Friday.
In 2015, Sears Holdings Corp. sold 235 Sears and Kmart store locations to Seritage as part of an agreement in which Sears leases the stores back from the real estate company. Under the agreement it has with Seritage, if a store is unprofitable, Sears Holdings has the option to exit the lease by making a payment equal to one year’s rent.
“We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced,” said Howard Riefs, in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
Riefs said the stores will close in mid-September; liquidation sales will begin by the end of June.
These closures come in addition to the closing of 226 stores — 164 Kmart stores and 62 Sears stores— already announced this year, according to research firm Fung Global & Retail Technology, which tracks retailers’ closings.
On Thursday, Sears announced the opening of its first Sears Appliances & Mattresses concept store, located in Pharr, Texas. The company said the store builds on the success of the Sears Appliances store that opened in Fort Collins, Colorado, last year.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The insurance company for the city of Ferguson, Missouri, paid $1.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Michael Brown’s parents, the city attorney said Friday.
Attorney Apollo Carey disclosed the amount in an email in response to an open records request. The settlement of the federal lawsuit was announced Tuesday, but financial details were not initially released.
Carey declined further comment on the settlement. A phone message seeking comment from the attorney for the family, Anthony Gray, was not immediately returned.
Brown, 18, was black and unarmed when he was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing, but the shooting led to months of protests in the St. Louis suburb.
Wilson resigned in November 2014, soon after a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict him. The U.S. Department of Justice found no grounds to prosecute Wilson, but the shooting led to a Justice Department investigation that resulted in a consent agreement requiring Ferguson to make significant changes to address racial bias in its police department and municipal court.
Michael Brown Sr. and Lezley McSpadden sued the city, former Police Chief Tom Jackson and Wilson in 2015, citing a police culture hostile to black residents and claiming Wilson used excessive force.
Ferguson, Jackson and Wilson denied the allegations.
The parents also argued that the death of their son deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber approved the settlement but disclosed nothing about the amount, saying only that it was “fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests of each Plaintiff,” with the money to be split between the parents.
Webber also wrote that the agreement “shall remain sealed by this Court and shall be considered a closed record” because disclosure of the information “could jeopardize the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators.”
Settlements involving public money and public entities like cities are typically open under Missouri law, but Webber wrote that the value of opening the record “is outweighed by the adverse impact to Plaintiffs.” He did not elaborate.
PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest is celebrating man’s best friend’s perfect imperfections in California on Friday.
The pooches — many of which are adoptable or previously adopted — will face off in a red carpet walk and “Faux Paw Fashion Show,” organizers said. The contestants are judged on first impressions, unusual attributes, personality and audience reaction.
A blind Chihuahua-Chinese Crested mix named Sweepee Rambo bested 16 other homely hounds in last year’s competition and waddled away with $1,500, a trophy and a flight to New York with her owner, Jason Wurtz, for media appearances. The then-17-year-old champion proved that third time’s the charm after falling short in the competition twice before.
By celebrating inner beauty, organizers said they hope to showcase that all dogs, regardless of physical appearance, can be lovable additions to any family.
Contest rules prevent owners from intentionally altering their animals to enhance appearance for the purpose of the contest. These pooches are celebrated for their natural ugliness, organizers said.
Besides the main crown, the Spirit Award is presented to a dog and owner who have overcome obstacles or provide service to their community, organizers said.
The competition has been held in Petaluma for more than 50 years but is in its 29th year at the Sonoma-Marin Fair.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Forecasters expect remnants of Tropical Depression Cindy to drench parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia Friday afternoon and evening, bringing heavy rainfall, possible flash flooding and higher river and lake levels through the weekend.
The severe weather was arriving on the anniversary of torrential rains and flooding that left 23 people dead in West Virginia last year.
National Weather Service officials in the three states said rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches (50 to 100 millimeters) were possible, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches (150 millimeters). Flash flood watches were in effect in much of Kentucky and West Virginia. Friday began with overcast skies across the region and some light rain.
“We should have a comfortable weekend coming up if we can just get through tonight and tomorrow,” Greg Meffert, lead forecaster in the Paducah office, said Thursday evening.
Crews in Memphis, Tennessee, worked Thursday to clear storm drains to help prevent street flooding.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency will be staffing its operations center in Nashville on Friday and Saturday to coordinate any requests for assistance.
The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management held briefings for emergency managers statewide Thursday, with another scheduled Friday morning, spokesman Lawrence Messina said. County and local officials can send the division situation reports or requests for help as needed, he said.
On Thursday afternoon, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a new law to coordinate the state’s flood mitigation and response efforts with a new state resiliency office. It also establishes a new legislative committee with oversight.
A suspected tornado near Birmingham, Alabama, flattened businesses and injured one person Thursday, while the mayor of the coastal Louisiana town of Lafitte urged residents to evacuate ahead of a rising tide — two lingering effects of the weakening system that fueled harsh weather across the Southeast.
Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast was still suffering from the effects of Cindy, a former tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico that crawled ashore early Thursday near the Louisiana-Texas state line. Downgraded to a tropical depression, Cindy weakened as it crossed Louisiana toward Arkansas but a broad circulation around the system swept moist Gulf air over the South, fueling severe weather and pushing up coastal tides.
As a slow-moving tropical storm that formed Tuesday in the Gulf, Cindy was blamed for one death. Nolan McCabe, 10, of St. Louis, Missouri, was vacationing with his family on the Alabama coast when he was hit by a log washed in by a large wave. Cindy also caused widespread coastal highway and street flooding and several short-lived tornadoes, but no other deaths.
McGill reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis; Michael Virtanen in Morgantown, W.Va.; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Kimberly Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.
ATLANTA (AP) — They had a long way to go and a short time to get there, but hundreds of fans in Trans Ams have put the hammer down and made it to Atlanta to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Smokey and the Bandit.”
About 350 cars this week retraced actor Burt Reynolds’ wild ride from the Texas-Arkansas line to Atlanta in the movie that roared into pop culture in 1977.
“Every town we drive through, people come out to film us, take pictures and wave as our convoy of cars comes through – it’s like being in a huge parade,” said organizer Dave Hall of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Truckers and others also took part in “Snowman’s Run,” a road trip that raises money for wounded veterans in the name of the late actor and musician Jerry Reed, who played the trucker Snowman in the movie.
All of them have gathered in Jonesboro, Georgia, the town 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Atlanta where much of the movie was filmed.
This weekend, they plan to recreate some of the movie’s memorable scenes, including a stunt driver’s attempt to jump 150 feet (46 meters) through the air in a Trans Am. Also planned: A Burt Reynold’s look-alike contest.
Reynolds himself will also be in attendance, and will take part in a question-and-answer session in a city park, Jonesboro City Manager Ricky Clark Jr. said.
“People are coming from all over the U.S. and other countries,” Clark said. “I got a message from someone from Switzerland who is flying over for this event.”
Smokey and the Bandit was among the first big-budget movies to be filmed in Georgia, paving the way for more recent films such as “The Hunger Games” movies and TV shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
Many of the scenes from Smokey and the Bandit were filmed on Main Street in downtown Jonesboro, nearby U.S. Highway 41 and other roads in the area, Clark said.
Some of the buildings still stand, as well. The city’s train depot that dates to 1867 appears in the movie, but movie-makers temporarily replaced its Jonesboro sign with one that said “Texarkana” so they could film scenes set in the town on the Texas-Arkansas line. That’s where the movie’s main characters picked up the 400 cases of Coors beer they would deliver to Atlanta in 28 hours. Participants in the anniversary celebration plan to recreate the “Coors scene” at the spot where it was filmed in Jonesboro this weekend.
A stunt man driving a Trans Am had also had hoped to recreate the Bandit’s jump across the Flint River west of downtown Jonesboro. The leap allowed Reynolds and his passenger, Sally Field, to evade the pursuing law officers, whose patrol cars plunged into the river seconds later.
But organizers decided the river site, now overtaken by weeds, wasn’t feasible for another jump. So they will instead recreate the jump at Atlanta Motor Speedway Saturday evening.
5:30AM Winds have shifted to the N this morning behind a cold front that has pushed thorough bringing some rain chances and much cooler air!
5:00AM A cold front has pushed through the state this morning and that means a nice break from the heat. Join us on Kansas Today for a look at the weekend headed our way!
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Police Department will now have more eyes throughout the Old Town area.
Today, city officials gathered to announce that 12 new surveillance cameras are now live and online downtown.
In February, the Wichita City Council voted to approve the security upgrades, at a cost of $750,000.
The plan is to put 70 hi-definition cameras in place, as part of the second phase in the project, which will wrap up at the end of the Summer.
Wesley Wallace is a Manager at Heroes Sports Bar and Grill.
Wallace takes safety and security seriously and says they have upwards of 30 cameras inside and outside of his business.
He was excited to hear that even more cameras will now be carefully watching over the area.
“The fact they already have 12 out of 70, that’s great, it’s a great step in making it a safer place down here in Old Town,” said Wallace.
City officials walked KSN through their surveillance command center.
Wichita Police Officer Teddy Wisely has helped oversee the project.
He says any of the 12 operational cameras and the ones that come online later can be viewed from any of the computers in the command center, or even remotely.
“As more come online, I believe the minimum requirement will be 30 days of storage, at that time we have it set, it will automatically override, so that we can utilize that storage space for new footage,” said Ofc. Wisely.
City officials say crime in Old Town isn’t a problem, but at times they have had a spike in events.
It’s something they say these cameras have proven to deter in other city’s and hope it will do the same here.
“These cameras will provide another set of eyes, a number of eyes, in Old Town to monitor activity in the area down there,” said Janet Miller, Wichita City Councilwoman.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay spoke says a lot of work went into making this all happen.
Ramsay says these cameras will not only serve as a security tool, but also as an economic development tool.
“My past experience with street cameras is that communities often fight for where the next one is going to go, because they have success in reducing crime,” said Chief Ramsay.
The plan will also allow for businesses who get their own cameras to hook up to the feed, and choose what cameras they allow the police to watch.
It’s something Wallace said he’d consider.
“As long as it helps them out, and we kind of work together as a team like that, anything that helps them, helps us, see no problem with that,” said Wallace.
City officials say the cameras will be recording around the clock, but won’t necessarily have someone in the command center viewing them at all times.
However, they say with just two clicks of mouse, they are able to go back through days worth of footage.
For the first time since 2008, the Kansas State Wildcats had a player drafted in the NBA Draft, as Wesley Iwundu was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 33rd pick.
Iwundu was an all-conference player during his time with the Wildcats, averaging 13 points, and over six rebounds and three assists per game. He joins a young Magic team where he should be able to make an early impact.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita group hosted a drop-off event for what they call “boomerang bags” tonight.
Every Thursday the group collects people’s second-hand materials. Volunteers then create reusable bags out of the old stuff. The goal is to decrease the amount of plastic use.
“The main thing is environmental protection,” said Phil Sanders, founder of the Confluence Community Center. “We want to get plastic bags out of the lakes, the rivers, the sources that lead to the oceans.”
The group tries to meet every Sunday to make the “boomerang bags.” Eventually they would like to sell them to local grocery stores for people to use.
LEON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Leon family was faced with a heart-wrenching situation earlier this year, even before their daughter Liby was born.
The birth of a child is supposed to be a special time, but for Jill and Josh Peterson their baby was struggling to survive.
“We were at 21 weeks when we found out that she had a heart defect,” said Jill Peterson, Liby’s mother. “It was very nerve-racking, we didn’t know what would happen.”
“It’s been a roller coaster. It was pretty scary for a little while,” added Josh Peterson, Liby’s father.
Liby was born at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City but was moved to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for treatment. Just after Liby’s birth the Peterson’s were faced with a tough decision.
“At nine days old they told us that it was better to do a heart transplant instead of doing any other surgeries,” said Jill.
The family had to wait weeks for Liby’s transplant. During that time they collected something special.
“These beads she would get every day she was in the hospital,” said Jill. “Every poke, speech therapy, physical therapy.”
After 87 agonizing days of waiting, Liby received her new heart.
“I was really happy with the decision we made to go with the transplant,” said Josh. “Because I wanted her to have a childhood.”
Liby still has a long road to recovery ahead of her. Her parents said she will have medical appointments the rest of her life, which includes taking heart medicine daily.
“We got a recording of the sound of her old heartbeat of her old heart before the transplant,” added Josh.
Thankfully a sound that Liby won’t have to live with anymore.
SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A new grant awarded to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office will allow more first responders to be trained in critical incident stress management. The training isn’t just for those in Sedgwick County, but for all of the region.
The $51,000 grant will allow first responders to participate in the training for free.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has been pushing to make sure more first responders and their agencies are better equipped to process those difficult situations they are often exposed to. For smaller agencies that may not be able to afford that training, this is a great opportunity.
Deputy N.G. Narvais with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said critical incident stress management training is all about making sure first responders are mentally okay.
“We are kind of letting them know, hey, you are on the train tracks, here is what the train looks like, here is what the train sounds like, now it is time for you to move off those tracks,” explained Narvais.
Narvais helps instruct one of the courses to help provide support and aid to deputies who might be having trouble processing a difficult scene, or an officer-involved shooting. When those incidents happen, they will be better prepared to reach out firsthand on the scene.
“We want to make sure the family know ahead of time as well, rather them catching it on social media or the news, because, again, we want to have that firsthand contact to get ahead of a negative circumstance if at all possible,” explained Narvais.
The new grant will help spread that outreach and training.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” said Lieutenant Lin Dehning with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
Now the department can afford even more training to boost the number of people qualified to help those first responders who may be struggling.
“We could have people here go through the training and we could have people from other agencies to go through the training as well,” added Dehning.
Smaller agencies don’t always have the money and resources for this type of training.
“Well, I would say typically through the years and the past, law enforcement officers have been taught to just suck it up, this is part of the job,” said Park City Police Chief Phil Bostian.
Right now for serious times where his officers need mental aid, they’ll call on Kansas Highway Patrol to help council his officers, but if you asked him if he had something he could rely on day-to-day, he would say no.
Bostian said he can foresee sending his men and women down to be trained and have them come back equipped to help others on his squad.
“I think it is a very positive thing for officers to be in an environment where they are safe with their peers, where they feel like they can share what they are feeling and what they are going through,” said Bostian.
The training is free for the first responders and Lin Dehning said this also helps establish a point of contact at other agencies, so when a situation does call for the critical incident stress management team, they can send their guys there to go hold those debriefings.
The critical incident stress management training is quite costly without the grant. Each class would cost a minimum of $2,500, not including books and material fees.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (KSNW) – The University of Kansas’ Josh Jackson has been selected by the Phoenix Suns in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Jackson was the No. 4 overall pick.
LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) — The town of Liberal is in shock tonight after one of their own died in a tragic accident Wednesday night.
Brett Cunningham was killed when the ATV he was riding on crashed. He was 14 years old.
“I was in shock,” said Joe Denoyer, the mayor of Liberal. “It’s a tragedy any time a child loses their lives.”
The Eisenhower Middle School student was riding an ATV driven by a 16-year-old when they crashed on a county road. The driver was not injured.
“Knowing those two boys,” said Denoyer, “knowing that they were related, they were cousins, just two boys, young teenagers out having a fun time in the summer turned tragic. I was shocked.”
Brett’s mother is a teacher at Garfield Elementary.
“The families are very involved in the community and in the school district, so everybody knew these kids, and it’s just a tragedy,” added Denoyer.
Word of Brett’s death is still spreading, but the mayor is confident he’ll see an outpouring of support from the community and ways to help the family.
“I haven’t heard of any way yet,” said Denoyer, “but knowing this community like I do, there will be several opportunities in the days to come.”
For now, the mayor wants the family to know they’re not alone.
“It’s going to take a long time to get through this,” he said, “but know that they have the support of the community, the support of the school district, and we’ll be there for them in any way that we can.”
Eisenhower Middle School will have grief counselors at the school on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, helping students, parents, and friends cope with the loss.
Cunningham had just finished 8th grade and was going into high school next year.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – If an old traffic ticket has you dodging law enforcement for fear of getting thrown in jail, tomorrow is your chance to resolve it.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, District Attorney’s Office and judges are holding an amnesty day Friday. It’s a chance to resolve infractions and misdemeanor traffic violations quickly and in one stop at the courthouse.
“If they just come in we want to want to help them get these things taken care of, help them get their privileges so that they can operate a vehicle legally restored, because the more they drive while they’re suspended the deeper the hole gets and if they just keep digging, sometimes there’s not a way out,” said District Court Judge Phil Journey.
Amnesty day will be on the fifth floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse at 525 N. Main Street. The day runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Keep in mind that the amnesty only applies to Sedgwick County and Kansas Highway Patrol tickets. If your ticket is from Wichita police or another city, they can get you started on what steps to take.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Today Republican Senate leaders revealed their health care plan.
Some major changes include gradually deepening cuts to Medicaid and repeals for individual and employer mandates.
The plan does keep coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also doesn’t allow states to opt out and it keeps kids on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts released statements regarding the discussion draft of the health care bill.
“Healthcare is one of the most important issues facing individuals and families across Kansas. I was not and am not for Obamacare and have seen firsthand the negative impact the law has had on too many Kansans,” said Senator Jerry Moran. “I was the first member of Congress to offer legislation to repeal the burdensome law and we must make certain it is replaced with a plan that improves the opportunities for more Americans and Kansans to access affordable and quality healthcare.”
“I will fully review this legislation and am awaiting the Congressional Budget Office score to gain a complete understanding of the impacts and consequences this bill would have on hardworking Kansans. If this bill isn’t good for Kansas, it isn’t good for me,” Moran added.
“For more than seven years, Obamacare’s mandates, taxes and regulations have wreaked havoc on our health care system and Americans’ pocketbooks,” said Senator Pat Roberts. “Since the law’s insurance mandates took effect, premiums in Kansas have doubled and insurers have exited the individual insurance market. We cannot continue to allow Obamacare to bring our healthcare system crashing down around our shoulders.
“The Senate bill protects the very sick, seniors and young people. People with pre-existing conditions will keep their health care. Children under 26 remain on the parent’s plans. There are no annual or lifetime limits on coverage. We reduce the deficit; we reform Medicaid, one of the big three entitlements. We eliminate the gap in coverage Obamacare created that hurt too many low-income families. We stabilize collapsing insurance markets.
“It is time to put ideology aside and move. What is the alternative? Single payer, socialized medicine? The American people don’t want that. We can’t delay. Delay is higher premiums, higher co-pays and little choice. This bill is the best path to immediate relief for patients in 2018. This bill is the best possible bill under very difficult circumstances.
“As debate moves forward I will work to see that rural healthcare is protected and that we achieve our ultimate goal of improving access to quality care for all Americans.
“I urge Kansans to examine the Senate bill. As we await a score and then consider amendments on the floor, I welcome the feedback of Kansans.”
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a Budget Resolution that related to the repeal of Obamacare. The Resolution contains reconciliation instructions that require committees to dismantle Obamacare by reducing federal spending by $2 billion.
Budget Resolutions are privileged and require a simple majority to pass.
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) – Authorities say a 14-year-old boy has died in an all-terrain vehicle crash in southwest Kansas.
The Kansas Highway Patrol says the ATV’s 16-year-old driver was speeding Wednesday night when the vehicle started to fish tail on a road about nine miles north of Liberal. The ATV then toppled onto the passenger side, killing Brett Cunningham, of Liberal.
The driver wasn’t hurt.
BOSTON (AP) — Boston has renamed a street in honor of retired Red Sox player David Ortiz.
Mayor Marty Walsh called the man known as Big Papi a “legend on and off the field” at the ceremony Thursday to rename the street formerly known as Yawkey Way Extension, near Fenway Park to David Ortiz Drive.
Ortiz called it an honor because “this city means a lot to me — this city got me to where I am.”
Ortiz retired last season after a 20-year major league career, including 14 years in Boston. The designated hitter helped the Red Sox win three World Series championships, including their first in 86 years in 2004.
A bridge near Fenway Park is already named for Ortiz. The Red Sox are scheduled to retire his No. 34 on Friday.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Brendon Tyler May, the 28-year-old man who was arrested on a terrorism charge earlier this week has been officially charged.
May was charged with two counts of criminal threat this afternoon.
His next appearance in court is scheduled for July 6. He is being held on a $50,000 bond.
Earlier this week 911 dispatchers received multiple calls in reference to a post allegedly made by May on social media.Wichita Police have confirmed that this post on social media led to the investigation.
Today in court, May took an opportunity to apologize for his actions, saying he was “negligent.”
Defense attorney Dan Monnat says a terroristic threat is considered a felony, but he said prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the criminal intent necessary to commit the crime.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSNW) – The Kansas City Chiefs announced today that Head Coach Andy Reid has signed a contract extension with the football club. Reid has been with the Chiefs for four years.
“My family and I have been very pleased by the success the franchise has sustained over the last four seasons under Coach Reid,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “He has already established himself as one of the best coaches in the league, and he is well on his way to solidifying a place among the all-time greats. We are proud to have him leading our football team, and I look forward to working with him to bring a championship to Chiefs Kingdom.”
The extension marks Reid’s soon-to-be nineteenth season as an NFL head coach.
“I’d like to thank Clark and the entire Hunt family for the opportunity to continue my coaching career here in Kansas City,” Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve made quite a bit of progress over the last four seasons, but we are not done yet. We are going to continue to work towards our ultimate goal of winning championships. I’ve been blessed by the support of the community, our fans, the Hunt family and the entire Chiefs staff. I’m looking forward to the years ahead as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Last season the Chiefs finished 12-4, sweeping the division and winning the AFC West.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama’s health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid and erase tax boosts that helped Obama finance his expansion of coverage. The measure encountered immediate trouble as four GOP senators said they opposed it but were open to negotiations.
The bill would provide less-generous tax credits to help people buy insurance and let states get waivers to ignore some coverage standards that “Obamacare” requires of insurers. And it would end the tax penalties under Obama’s law on people who don’t buy insurance — the so-called individual mandate — and on larger companies that don’t offer coverage to their employees.
The measure represents the Senate GOP’s effort to achieve a top tier priority for President Donald Trump and virtually all Republican members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to push it through his chamber next week, but solid Democratic opposition — and complaints from at least a half-dozen Republicans — have left its fate unclear.
“We have to act,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo.”
But some Republican senators, as well as all the Senate’s Democrats, have complained about McConnell’s proposal, the secrecy with which he drafted it and the speed with which he’d like to whisk it to passage. McConnell has only a thin margin of error: The bill would fail if just three of the Senate’s 52 GOP senators oppose it.
Democrats gathered on the Senate floor and defended Obama’s 2010 overhaul. They said GOP characterizations of the law as failing are wrong and said the Republican plan would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs.
“We live in the wealthiest country on earth. Surely we can do better than what the Republican health care bill promises,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Four GOP conservative senators — Texas’ Ted Cruz, Mike Lee of Utah, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — said the bill falls short of GOP promises to erase Obama’s law and lower people’s costs. But they said they were “open to negotiation and obtaining more information.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., facing a tough re-election fight next year, said he had “serious concerns’ about the bill’s Medicaid reductions.
“If the bill is good for Nevada, I’ll vote for it and if it’s not, I won’t,” said Heller, whose state added 200,000 additional people under Obama’s law.
The House approved its version of the bill last month. Though he lauded its passage in a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump last week privately called the House measure “mean” and called on senators to make their version more “generous.”
At the White House on Thursday, Trump expressed hope for quick action.
“We’ll hopefully get something done, and it will be something with heart and very meaningful,” he said
The bill would phase out the extra money Obama’s law provides to states that have expanded coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people. The additional funds would continue through 2020, and be gradually reduced until they are entirely eliminated in 2024.
Ending Obama’s expansion has been a major problem for some GOP senators. Some from states that have expanded the program have battled to prolong the phase-out, while conservative Republicans have sought to halt the funds quickly.
Beginning in 2020, the Senate measure would also limit the federal funds states get each year for Medicaid. The program currently gives states all the money needed to cover eligible recipients and procedures.
The Senate bill would also reduce subsidies now provided to help people without workplace coverage get private health insurance, said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president of the health care consulting firm Avalare Health.
Unlike the House bill, which bases its subsidies for private insurance on age, the Senate bill uses age and income. That focuses financial assistance on people with lower incomes.
Pearson said those subsidies will be smaller than under current law. That’s because they’re keyed to the cost of a bare-bones plan, and because additional help now provided for deductibles and copayments would be discontinued.
Under Obama’s law, “many of those people would have gotten much more generous plans,” she said.
The bill would let states get waivers to ignore some coverage requirements under Obama’s law, such as specific health services insurers must now cover. States could not get exemptions to Obama’s prohibition against charging higher premiums for some people with pre-existing medical conditions, but the subsidies would be lower, Pearson said, making coverage less unaffordable.
Like the House bill, the Senate measure would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Many Republicans have long fought that organization because it provides abortions.
It would also bar the use of the bill’s health care tax credits to buy coverage that includes abortions, a major demand for conservatives. That language could be forced out of the bill for procedural reasons, which would threaten support from conservatives, but Republicans would seek other ways to retain the restriction.
The Senate would provide $50 billion over the next four years that states could use in an effort to shore up insurance markets around the country.
For the next two years, it would also provide money that insurers use to help lower out-of-pocket costs for millions of lower income people. Trump has been threatening to discontinue those payments, and some insurance companies have cited uncertainty over those funds as reasons why they are abandoning some markets and boosting premiums.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose coverage by 2026. The budget office’s analysis of the Senate measure is expected in the next few days.