In a Republican party that’s gone all out against Obamacare, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval went all in.
Sandoval is the only Republican governor whose state is both running its own health insurance exchange this year and expanding its Medicaid program under the health law. He’s arguably doing more to put the Democrats’ signature law into place than any other Republican.
But in fully implementing Obamacare, Sandoval faces a double-edged sword: He’s helping bring health care coverage to a state with the second highest uninsured rate in the country, while he may be hurting his national ambitions because he’s not actively blocking the president’s law.
Sandoval has always maintained that he dislikes the health law and he’d like to see it repealed. But as long as it’s the law of the land, he says it is his job to make it work for the people of his state.
“I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception,” he wrote in an email. But he’s a former federal judge and in his view, once the Supreme Court upheld the legislation, “the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land.”
Even after sticking his neck out on Obamacare — which few others in his party would consider amid fear of a conservative backlash — Sandoval is overwhelmingly popular in Nevada. State lawmakers backed his Obamacare approach on a bipartisan basis, and he’s cruising toward reelection next year with no formidable opponent in sight.
“Sandoval’s approval numbers are stratospheric, so it’s a very small group of folks who are concerned about it,” said Jon Ralston, the state’s leading political analyst. The objections came from those on the far right who “seized on that because they don’t believe Sandoval is conservative enough.”
On health care, Democrats laud him too.
“I don’t know what the politics are from his standpoint but I think it’s the right decision,” said Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, whose Nevada district has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. “People are signing up, fortunately, in Nevada and the website is working pretty well. We’ve been very aggressive.”0