Utah’s congressional delegation, others respond to House passing health care bill

FIle photo: House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 7, 2017 | AP Photo/Susan Walsh, St. George News

ST. GEORGE Congressional Republicans carried the day as the “American Health Care Act” passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. Each of Utah’s four representatives voted in favor of the bill that is considered the first step toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

Members of the Utah’s congressional delegation issued statements pleased with the outcome of the vote, while others expressed their displeasure and worry that the Republican’s health care plan will cause harm to the facets of the American people.

President Donald Trump gestures in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2017 | AP Photo/Evan Vucci, St. George News

While the measure passed the House, it has yet to survive the Senate. Many senators consider the House bill too harsh and it’s expected to undergo substantial changes.

President Donald Trump is celebrating the passage of the House Republican health care bill, saying he is confident it will get through the Senate.

Flanked by Republican lawmakers in the Rose Garden, Trump called President Barack Obama’s health care law a “catastrophe” and called the GOP bill “a great plan.”

Trump said “premiums will be coming down, deductibles will be coming down.”

Looking ahead, Trump said they’ll celebrate “when we get it through the Senate, and there’s so much spirit there.”

What follows are statements for Utah’s elected representatives concerning the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act:

Rep. Chris Stewart

For more than seven years the American people have been asking Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. Today we delivered. The American Health Care Act will drive down costs, offer families more choices and importantly protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Obamacare has driven premiums beyond what most of my constituents can afford to pay. Several of the counties I represent have just one insurer available to them on the exchange. The costs and deductibles continue to rise. This situation is simply not acceptable.

States need the ability to manage health care locally. More local control ensures flexibility for Utah to adjust and adapt to local needs. No doubt there is still work to do. But I believe the Republican’s health care plan is the right first step towards fixing a complex and crumbling system.

Rep. Mia Love

Passage of the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) comes at a crucial time, as Americans continue to face increasing premiums and fewer choices. One third of US counties have only one insurance provider. And several insurers are looking to withdraw from the exchanges, leaving Americans who buy their own insurance without options. Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. The AHCA puts patients in charge of their health decisions and doesn’t require people to buy insurance.

This legislation provides many levels of protection for those with pre-existing conditions, while giving states greater flexibility to lower premiums and stabilize the insurance market. Women’s access to health services will be expanded by directing money to community health centers.

Rep. Rob Bishop

The problem with Obamacare is that is has raised premiums significantly, and it has caused people to have their work hours slashed and even lose their jobs. Americans have been either forced into a government program or penalized with a fine. Those who become newly insured were pushed into a plan that was doomed to fail.

The passage of today’s health care bill is the first step to allow people to have choices that meet their needs, not forced into what the government demands. I understand the pains of Obamacare first hand. As a member of Congress, I was forced to comply with this mandate. This bill is a significant step forward for all those who seek quality, affordable, and accessible health care.

Sen. Orrin Hatch

Obamacare’s burdensome mandates and crushing taxes have locked the American people into a system of higher costs and less choice. Today House Republicans successfully took a major step towards freeing American families from Obamacare by advancing a bill that dismantles the law’s harmful taxes and mandates, while providing patient-centered reforms that put American families – not Washington – in charge of their healthcare decisions.

As we work to fulfill our promise to our constituents to repeal and replace the law in the Senate, we will be guided by the important principles to address costs and give American families more choices.  At the same time, we will be working to put together a package that reflects our member’s priorities with the explicit goal of getting 51 votes.  Coupled with the constraints imposed by the budget reconciliation process, we must manage expectations and remain focused on the art of the doable as we move forward.

Secretary Tom Price, M.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Today, the House of Representatives has begun to deliver on President Trump’s promise to repeal a broken law and replace it with solutions that put patients in charge. This is a victory for the American people.

The American Health Care Act is focused on patients. It is the first step toward a patient-centered healthcare system that will provide Americans access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage, empowering individuals and families to choose the coverage that best meets their needs, not what Washington forces them to buy, and equipping states to address the diverse needs of their most vulnerable populations. As Congress continues its work, the team at HHS will continue to support the reform effort by reviewing and initiating administrative actions to put patients, families and doctors in charge of medical decisions, bring down costs, and increase choices.

What the current version of the bill would do, prior to any potential reworking and gutting by the Senate:

The bill would eliminate tax penalties Obama’s law has forced on people who don’t buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance — largely based on people’s incomes and premium costs — into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.

It would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.

Not everyone is happy with the passage of the new bill and what is aims to achieve.

Peter Carroon, chair of the Utah Democratic Party, issued a statement saying the GOP had become a “death squad” and pointed to worries of rising premiums for seniors and individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Today, the GOP-led Congress with the help of our Utah Republican delegation became a Death Squad for thousands of Utahns and millions of Americans. In their quest to give Insurance Company CEO’s more money in their pockets, the Republicans are providing a death sentence to many Americans who will no longer be able to afford health insurance or medical care. The Republican Party has become immoral and un-American as they seek to cut healthcare for the poor, allow insurance companies to deny coverage or raise premiums for people with pre-existing conditions and allow caps on how much health care coverage people can receive.

Under the GOP plan which they rushed through Congress, 14 million more Americans will be uninsured next year, and 24 million by 2026. Even the American Medical Association, AARP and other consumer and medical groups are opposed.

We are returning to a health-care system that we had all thought was behind us.  This bill will create significant burdens on state health care systems as many Utahns will be forced into emergency rooms for health care.

…. If there’s any doubt to how bad this bill is, consider that Republicans in Congress exempted themselves, and then scheduled a vote on the final bill with no committee hearings, no markups, no amendments, no idea how much it will cost, and allotted only a couple of hours of debate on the House floor.

Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project

Over 85% of Americans want strong protections for pre-existing conditions, yet this bill allows insurance companies to once again discriminate against sick Utahns by charging them much higher premiums with the goal of driving them out of coverage. The misfortune of being born prematurely, having asthma or autism, or even suffering from depression will create a huge hurdle to buy and keep health insurance with the passage of this bill.

Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel with Alliance for a Better Utah

It is alarming that Congress is willing to jeopardize the health of the American people all in the name of fulfilling a campaign promise. Instead of taking the time to work out fine-tuned revisions to improve the ACA, the Trump Administration and GOP leaders have taken a sledgehammer to the most popular parts of the law. Protections for pre-existing conditions and the essential health benefits now exist in name only — it is unimaginable that Utah and many other states will not apply for one of these waivers. If our representatives truly cared about their constituents who rely on these provisions, they would not have voted for this bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Allie May 4, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    It ain’t over till it’s over. Still has to get past the Senate. Then the real test will be the 2018 elections. Let’s see if premiums go up, if people can more afford it and if insurance companies can live with it. So far it seems this administration wants to cater more to the well off and not so much to us regular folk. After we become extinct, who are they going to get all their money from?

  • Thecadean May 5, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Sad Day for the working poor. Make no mistake, this is a huge tax cut for the wealthy. Personally, our family will save 10’s of thousands, but for the working poor, the elimination of $900 billion dollars in government matching will be devastating. Not one of the 19,000 words in this bill address the real problem of cost. Having served on a hospital board, we all know that this will result in millions of americans dropping coverage or taking greatly reduced plan coverage. Cost will only sky rocket for everyone as millions of Americans turn to using hospital emergency rooms as their primary health care. Very sad when the wealthiest nation in the world become so greedy as to take from the most vulnerable among us. The next round of elections are not far off. The backlash against these politicians may prove a costly one.
    Greg G

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