Reichert votes ‘no’ on health care bill

May 5, 2017 GMT

GOP leaders in the U.S. House who passed legislation Thursday repealing the Affordable Care Act did so without the support of Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican from Auburn.

He had been undecided this week on the Republican measure, known as the American Health Care Act, despite lobbying from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan. He represents Washington’s 8th District, which includes Kittitas County.

He voted no, releasing a statement saying the GOP’s health care reform “falls short and does not provide the essential protections I need to support it.”

The final tally was 217-213. Republicans managed to win over enough members of their own party to overcome 20 “no” votes from the GOP and no Democratic support.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, was another member of Washington’s delegation to vote against the bill.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, missed the vote. His wife has been receiving chemotherapy treatment since February and he was unable to be present for the vote because of her health, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, voted for the bill. She called it a “victory” for “the millions of Americans who have been struggling to find affordable, reliable health care coverage.”

The measure now heads to the Senate, but to get it there, Republicans had to tweak the legislation a handful of times after it failed to get a vote in late March. Many changes were aimed at swaying conservative members of the House.

But the amendments lost the votes of some more moderate Republicans. One dealing with preexisting conditions was particularly controversial: the bill lets states opt out of an ACA requirement that insurers can’t charge different rates to healthy and sick customers.

To win some moderates back, House leaders added $8 billion over five years into the bill for state high-risk pools, which help sick people pay their insurance premiums. Opponents of the measure say the money isn’t adequate, but the amendment did flip some resistant Republicans.

Not Reichert or Beutler.

While Reichert didn’t address the specifics of the bill, he said he is “committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities” including “people with preexisting conditions.”

Before Thursday, Reichert had been undecided on prior versions of the bill, although he did vote for an initial version of the AHCA in a House committee.

Democrats react

Democratic leaders in the state bashed the GOP health care bill after it passed, saying it will cause people to lose insurance and hurt those with pre-existing conditions.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, also bashed tax cuts for high earners in the measure.

“The intent of this bill is to take away health insurance from people in order to give tax breaks to very wealthy people,” he said Thursday in Olympia.

About 750,000 people have gained insurance coverage in the state because of Obamacare, according to the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Most are insured through an expansion of the Medicaid program for low income people that is paid for almost entirely by the federal government.

While the bill passed in the U.S. House Thursday hasn’t been analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, a report on an earlier version of the AHCA says it would have resulted in 21 million fewer people having health insurance by 2020.

Since a targeted tax penalty for the uninsured is removed in the AHCA, some of that 21 million comes from people choosing not to buy health insurance.

The Republican health bill also rolls back federal money for Medicaid and allows states to impose work requirements on people insured through the program.

The March CBO report said insurance premiums for many would have risen at first under the earlier version of the bill, jumping about 15 to 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 compared to Obamacare.

By 2026, premiums would have fallen, clocking in about 10 percent lower than they would be under current law, the report said.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.