By Tad Johnson and Seth Rowe
Reaction to the May 4 approval of the American Health Care Act in the U.S. House has gone along party lines, much like the vote.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a DFLer who represents Minneapolis and many of the nearby suburbs in the 5th Congressional District, said in a statement, “In their first major vote under President Trump, House Republicans pushed through a bill that will increase insurance premiums and deductibles, slash hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, and leave millions of working people without affordable healthcare coverage – to finance a $1,000,000,000,000 tax cut for the top 2% of households. Everyday Americans will be forced to pick up this tab, and they’ll pay for it with their health, their security, and in some cases, with their lives.”
He continued, “Calling this bill the “American Health Care Act” is a cruel irony – 24 million Americans will likely lose their coverage. Hundreds of millions of people who get their insurance through their employer could see their plans slashed. Seniors and people with pre-existing conditions will be priced out of their insurance plans. And as many as one million Minnesotans who have received affordable care through the expansion of Medicaid, essential health benefits, or the exchange will be worse off.”
Ellison criticized the bill’s potential impact on expecting mothers, low-income parents with no employer health benefits, people with a chronic illness and Minnesotans who gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He pointed out that the word “life” comes first in the Declaration of Independence’s phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
“I’ve never thought health care should be a product to be bought and sold, taken for granted by some and out of reach for many, many others,” Ellison said. “Healthcare should be a right granted to every person. And while Republicans clearly don’t agree, we won’t stop fighting for working families – we never will.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican who represents the western suburbs in the 3rd Congressional District, released a shorter statement saying, “With millions in Minnesota and the United States in need of relief from skyrocketing costs, diminishing choices, and limited access, the status quo under Obamacare is no longer acceptable.
“This is just the latest step in reforming our health care system to be more patient-centered, and my focus remains on finding solutions that will make sure Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care. I’m also pleased to see the permanent repeal of the medical device tax included in this effort, which is critical to encourage medical innovation and make life-saving technologies accessible to patients.”
Paulsen represents a district that is a center for medical-device companies.
U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican who was elected in the 2nd Congressional District in the south metro this fall, said, “Last year, I promised the people of the 2nd District that I would promote real health care reform that works for their families. I’m keeping that promise.
“Obamacare is continuing to collapse. The American Health Care Act’s much-needed relief includes lower premiums, universal access, and greater patient choice. We also continue the important missions of protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that no-one can be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.
“I’ll keep working to make quality, accessible health care a reality for families in Minnesota.”
All Minnesota Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the bill while all Minnesota’s DFL members of U.S. House voted against the bill.
The measure passed 217 to 212 with no Democratic support and 20 Republicans voting no.
The 2nd Congressional District DFL Party tweeted out on its Twitter account, “And the GOP claims it’s the party of ‘fiscal responsibility’ and ‘family values,’” in reference to the fact the bill did not have a public hearing or an updated score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The nonprofit Twin Cities interfaith coalition ISAIAH said in a press release after the vote that this is a time for public lament.
“This inhumane bill destroys the health care of 24 million people, steals $880 billion from Medicaid, threatening the health and even the very lives of many in our nation. Nearly half of all births in the nation are covered by Medicaid, and 60 percent of nursing home beds. Every American’s health care will be affected if this bill is made the law of the land, but people of color, children, the elderly and disabled will be disproportionately affected.
“Moreover, everyone with pre-existing conditions – whether it be cancer or simply having given birth through C-section – will be in danger of losing access to health care. Rep. Erik Paulsen and Rep. Lewis both previously gave assurances they would protect pre-existing conditions, so their reversal on that position is particularly noteworthy.”
Gov. Mark Dayton told the media after the vote that Minnesota will not opt out of covering people entering the health care market with pre-existing conditions.
A CNN analysis of the bill said “it would make it harder for people to buy comprehensive coverage and weaken the protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The bill would provide $138 billion through 2026 to help states and insurers lower premiums and set up high-risk pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions.”
More on that analysis is at money.cnn.com/2017/05/04/news/economy/obamacare-republican-health-care/index.html.
ISAIAH has organized thousands of people to call, write and visit congressional representatives, including an hour-long stop at Lewis’ Burnsville office in April prior to what was expected to be the first vote on the AHCA.
That vote never materialized. The bill was revamped and it’s next stop is consideration by the U.S. Senate.
Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]