After several months of negotiating, and a failed effort in March, 217 members of the Republican House majority, including the three metro-east congressman, voted on Thursday on a health care bill to repeal Obamacare.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, voted in favor Wednesday of the American Health Care Act — the first step in the Republican-led effort to repeal and replacement the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The bill passed the House 217-213, and now moves onto the U.S. Senate.
The GOP House leadership has been working since it pulled the bill in March to garner enough support for the legislation. The Republican majority needed 216 votes, and prior to the vote staffers acknowledged that it probably would be a tight vote.
“Obamacare was based on a one-size-fits-all approach that put bureaucrats in Washington in charge of your health care. It led to higher costs, fewer choices, and less access to the care people need. Its flaws are structural and cannot be fixed by tweaking at the margins,” Bost said in a news release.
“Many of the counties in the Illinois 12th Congressional District only have one option through the exchange under Obamacare, and that plan’s premiums have skyrocketed by 70 percent. In some states, insurers are fleeing entirely.”
The legislation received no support from House Democrats.
“President Obama and Democrats in Congress had seven years to fix Obamacare through regulatory reforms, which did not need congressional approval, but failed because the law is fundamentally flawed,” Davis said in a news release.
“Obamacare is collapsing and we have a duty to our constituents to pass a solution. It’s incredibly disappointing that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle – many of whom have acknowledged the law’s failures – refuse to be part of a solution for their constituents who will likely get another notice at the end of the year telling them their premiums have increased yet again or the plan they have no longer exists.”
The day included several Rose Garden victory speeches at the White House with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The House voted on the bill without it being scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO’s previous score of the legislation, which was pulled in March, estimated 24 million people would lose insurance by 2026 through the AHCA.
Among other things, the legislation removes the individual mandate to have health insurance, the mandate that large employers offer health insurance, allow people with higher incomes to receive government subsidies to buy insurance, and eliminates two sets of taxes on high-income earners, 0.9 percent increase on the Medicare payroll tax, and a 3.8 percent tax on investment income.
Obamacare was based on a one-size-fits-all approach that put bureaucrats in Washington in charge of your health care. It led to higher costs, fewer choices, and less access to the care people need. Its flaws are structural and cannot be fixed by tweaking at the margins.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro
“For seven years, I’ve fought to repeal all of Obamacare’s mandates, middle class taxes, abortion subsidies, insurance company bailouts, and unaffordable, one-size-fits-all health insurance plans,” Shimkus said in a news release. “I also assured my constituents that our replacement would include protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. My vote today does all of the above.”
The legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans more for coverage than younger people, according to the New York Times.
U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Billy Long of Missouri emerged from a White House meeting with President Trump saying they could now support the bill, thanks to the addition of $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions.
Bost said the $8 billion is part of the $138 billion in the legislation, which would help offset the cost of premiums and deductibles, such as high-risk pools. That money also covers maternity, mental health and substance abuse coverage.
The latest iteration of the GOP health care bill would let states escape requirements that insurers provide a menu of basic services like preventive care and charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates — changes that brought a key group of conservatives on board last week.
Overall, the legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies. The American Medical Association, AARP and other consumer and medical groups were all opposed. The AMA issued a statement saying the changes sought by Upton and Long “tinker at the edges without remedying the fundamental failing of the bill — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result.”
President Obama and Democrats in Congress had seven years to fix Obamacare through regulatory reforms, which did not need congressional approval, but failed because the law is fundamentally flawed.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville
States also would have to obtain waivers if they don’t want to require federal essential health benefits.
According to the House GOP leadership website, a “state must publicly attest its purpose for doing so (to reduce the cost of health care coverage, increase the number of people with health care coverage, etc.) and it must specify the benefits it will require instead of the federal standard.”
Waivers on pre-existing coverage, allowing dependents to stay on their parents health insurance until age 26, and gender discrimination would not be allowed, Republican leadership said.
Bost added he believed competition in the market place will help bring insurance rates down.
He also cited insurance rates have increased and that there are counties in Illinois, including Madison, St. Clair and Monroe, that have only one provider.
“It was a structure so out of whack we had no choice than to try to cure it,” Bost said. “Obamacare is just a collapsing mess.”
The AHCA is a part of a three-pronged approach of repealing and replacing the ACA.
“The American Health Care Act is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction to decrease premiums and expand and enhance health care options so Americans can find a plan that’s right for them,” Bost said. “Importantly, the bill provides a stable transition to help ensure low-income Americans have access to quality, affordable options through a new, competitive, state-based private insurance marketplace.”
The other parts include administrative changes by the by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and then other legislative changes in subsequent bills.
Bost said other legislative changes are planned would be tort reform, allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines, and allowing large groups to pool together across state lines.
“I hope Democrats will join with us in moving that (forward),” Bost said.
The AHCA was crafted so it could fit under budget reconciliation rules in the U.S. Senate, which allows budgetary related bill to pass with a simple majority, rather than needing 60 votes to get past a filibuster.
For seven years, I’ve fought to repeal all of Obamacare’s mandates, middle class taxes, abortion subsidies, insurance company bailouts, and unaffordable, one-size-fits-all health insurance plans. I also assured my constituents that our replacement would include protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. My vote today does all of the above.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville
There are only 52 Republicans in the Senate; 46 senators are Democrats, including Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, and two independents, who caucus with the Democrats.
Durbin said in a news release he will oppose the repeal effort.
“The Illinois congressmen who voted to repeal health care today ignored clear warnings from every Illinois medical organization that this will be a disaster for our state. They were driven by political arrogance instead of common sense. My recent medical experience reminded me how vulnerable we all are. I will fight this Republican health care repeal in the Senate until Hell freezes over,” Durbin said.
“Republican refusal to secure an impact statement on their bill from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is unprecedented and tells us this revised repeal plan is worse than the original. Residents of Illinois can expect protection for those with pre-existing conditions to diminish; one million in our state to lose their health insurance; those between ages 45 and 65 to see dramatic increases in premiums; downstate and inner city hospitals to reduce services and staff and a return to the life-and-death battles with insurance companies over issues of coverage.”
Duckworth, a veteran herself, said GOP healthcare plan that would increase taxes on as many as 8 million veterans.
“It’s disgraceful that Republicans in Congress just passed a bill that would kick tens of millions of Americans off of their health insurance and force many more to pay higher out-of-pocket costs,” Duckworth said. “What’s stunning is that Republicans also included a provision that would raise taxes on as many as 8 million veterans and make it harder for them to afford their healthcare. I will fight this proposal in the Senate tooth and nail to make sure that every one of my brothers and sisters who wore the uniform of this great nation — and every American — is able to receive the care they deserve.”
Under the AHCA, there is an item that exempts members of Congress and their staff members from losing popular Obamacare provisions. The item was put into the law so it would fit under Senate reconciliation rules, according to the Hill.
On Thursday, in a separate bill, the House voted to close that loophole.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, still had concerns over the bill that passed the U.S. House.
“Recent changes did not address fundamental concerns about the bill’s impact on the 650,000 individuals that are part of our Medicaid expansion population, nor have those changes eased the concerns of the 350,000 people in the individual market who are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices. We will continue to voice our concerns as the law moves to the Senate,” Rauner said in a news release. “The Affordable Care Act is a seriously flawed law that should be changed. Difficult as the task has proven, we are hopeful that our federal lawmakers will continue to work hard to get this right for the people of Illinois and our nation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.