After months of infighting, the House on Thursday narrowly approved the Republican healthcare bill meant to repeal and replace key components of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans won the passage just six weeks after a vote on the first version of the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, was cancelled due to divisions in both parties about the measure.
The bill passed through the House by a thin 217-213 vote, with all voting Democrats and a small group of Republican holdouts voting no. Despite remaining undecided up until the vote, Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) voted ‘yes’ on the measure, applauding the fact that the new bill ensures important protections remain in place for those with pre-existing conditions and in high-risk pools.
“The American Health Care Act, as amended, is a good first step toward putting control over personal healthcare choices back into the hands of individuals – not the federal government,” said Denham.
An amendment in the bill would provide $8 billion over five years to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for medical costs.
The bill also eliminates tax penalties from Obamacare which clamped down on people who don’t buy coverage, and it also erases tax increases in the ACA 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, and will transform subsidies into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.
According to California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a repeal of Obamacare will rob 24 million Americans of health care coverage and permit the sale of insurance policies that do not cover many essential health benefits, as well as weaken prohibitions against annual and lifetime limits, which protect Americans from catastrophic medical costs.
“The President and House Republicans have nothing to be proud of today as they work to take health coverage away from millions of Americans who will be harmed by their actions,” said Jones.
Though the measure retains Obamacare’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26, it will block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year – considered a triumph by many pro-life Republicans. At a town hall event in April, Denham stated he supported cutting off Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, which serves 15,000 people in California’s 10th District.
“I’m pro-life,” said Denham in April. “It’s a personal view for me.”
While Denham may believe the AHCA is a step forward for health care in America, access issues that existed before the ACA have only gotten worse with expanded coverage, he said.
“California ranks 48th in the U.S. for Medicaid reimbursement rates, creating a disincentive for physicians to accept more patients covered through Medi-Cal,” said Denham.
These facts, coupled with the district’s inability to recruit new physicians has created a situation where coverage does not necessarily equal care, Denham added, and families in the Valley must resort to overflowing emergency rooms to be seen by a doctor.
Denham has stated he plans to combat the lack of access to care here in the Central Valley by expanding local residency programs.
“All Americans should have the freedom to choose a healthcare plan that works best for their families, and as a parent, I understand that this choice is especially important when it comes to the care of young children,” said Denham. “I will continue to fight for access to affordable health care options for the Valley.”
While Denham stated his support of the ACHA and his vote to repeal and replace, a large number of comments on his Facebook page were condemning his actions.
“I am so sad to see you voted yes,” wrote Emily Cooper. “I've just made a donation to ActBlue to fund your opponent in the next election cycle. I realize it sounds dramatic to say, but people will die as a consequence of your vote if this legislation passes the Senate. You should be very, very ashamed of yourself.”
“Your vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a system that will sharply reduce the number of people with health care coverage is going to cause untold suffering in our district and across the nation if it becomes law,” wrote Ken Schroder.
“I sat in a meeting with your staff in which they assured us they would not "pull the rug out from under people" and cause thousands of constituents to lose coverage,” wrote Emily Baldwin “But they were LYING and so are YOU if you are really claiming to support this disgusting bill. You are a disgrace, and you are about to be removed.”
While the vast majority of the comments were expressing their disapproval with how Denham voted, some took to his Facebook page to show their support for his vote.
“Good Job Jeff!!! People don't realize that several people were covered under OBAMACARE because they were forced to pay, not because they were being saved,” wrote Jon Ceballos. “Those forced were counted in the numbers that were newly covered. I didn't have Healthcare because I didn't want to pay for it, then I was forced to purchase it or be FINED. I had NO CHOICE...AND OBAMACARE didn't even cover my deductible when I would go to the doctor. Glad it's gone.”
Next, the AHCA will move to a vote in the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. President Donald Trump hailed the House passage of the bill, stating that he is “so confident” the legislation will pass the senate.