US House passes American Health Care Act onto Senate, 217-213; see how Colorado reps voted

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass the American Health Care Act, the bill concocted by House Republicans and President Donald Trump to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act passed under President Barack Obama.

The bill passed narrowly, 217-213, after extensive debate Thursday morning over how the recently-revived and revised bill would affect people with pre-existing conditions.

Colorado’s seven House members voted as follows:

  • Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO1) – no
  • Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO2) – no
  • Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO3) – yes
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO4) – yes
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO5) – yes
  • Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO6) – no
  • Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO7) – no

Coffman was one of 20 Republicans who voted against the bill. The rest of Colorado's members of Congress voted along party lines.

He told Denver7 in an interview after the vote that the MacArthur amendment led to concerns about pre-existing conditions.

“What the McArthur amendment did was weaken the protection for pre-existing conditions, and so I was concerned about that and certainly offered language to House Republican leadership and encouraged them to accept it,” he said. “Unfortunately they didn’t accept it in the end, and so I was a ‘no’ vote.”

“I am true to my district in a sense that I had a place to the people of my congressional district that I would make sure that pre-existing conditions were protected at every level,” Coffman continued, adding that he wanted to see a new CBO score with the MacArthur amendment factored in.

He said he hopes the Senate makes changes to the bill before it is voted on.

“I have to be optimistic here. So it goes over to the Senate, and certainly I believe I will work to see that my concerns are addressed with the legislation -- because we need health care reform. We absolutely, desperately need healthcare reform to help the American people.”

"The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has gone from bad to worse," said Perlmutter. "By all accounts, Coloradans will suffer if this bill becomes law. This plan takes us backward and is a bad deal for millions of hardworking families who have come to rely on affordable, quality health insurance."

"This vote makes it clear that [House Republicans] value special interests over people, the wealthy over the middle class, and ideology over economics," Polis tweeted after the vote.

Both Lamborn and Tipton said they had kept their promises to vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also claiming the bill is safeguards against people with pre-existing conditions both had pledged to protect.

"Today I voted to advance the promise I made to my constituents to drive down the cost of health insurance and bring choice to the market," Tipton tweeted.

"I have kept my promise to replace Obamacare with a patient-centered plan that reduces government control, lowers costs, and increases the health care choices available to the American people. The AHCA has improved over the last month.," Lamborn said in a statement.

He added that he worked to amend the bill to help veterans, and that he was hopeful the Senate would "build upon the good work done by the House."

"I have voted to move us forward to a future of improved health care access and affordability for all Americans," Lamborn added.

How AHCA was revived from the dead

Two amendments, the MacArthur and Upton amendments, were added to the bill since it was pulled ahead of a vote in March.

And though both guaranteed pre-existing conditions would be covered under the AHCA in language, some House Republicans, nearly all House Democrats and many health and medical organizations came out in opposition to the bill even with the amendments over concerns with high-risk pools being reinstated to try and cover people with pre-existing conditions – something the Affordable Care Act eliminated.

--See how pre-existing condition coverage and high-risk pools might work in Colorado under the AHCA.

Ahead of the vote on the whole American Health Care Act, the House approved a measure that removed language that would have exempted members of Congress from the AHCA’s coverage provisions. It put Congress on the same playing field as Americans with a 429-0 vote.

"Glad to have supported provision where Members of Congress have to live by same laws as the rest of Americans," Coffman said on Twitter.

The bill would add $8 billion over five years to fund high-risk pools, according to multiple news outlets who had seen the amendment, which would be added to $130 billion already written into the bill.

The addition of the extra money still may be short of the money needed, according to some Republicans, who say high-risk pools would actually need between $150 and $200 billion. Some estimates are much higher.

The vote was expected to be close, and the margins grew narrower when Coffman said Thursday morning he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it didn’t adequately cover people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans got one more vote than they originally needed.

Coffman also said he wouldn’t vote for a bill that hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office as reasons for why he wouldn't vote for the bill. Though the original AHCA was scored in March, the CBO hadn’t had time to analyze the bill with the new amendments.

In March, the CBO found 24 million fewer people would have insurance and that cuts to Medicaid would be drastic.

A spokesman for Buck said that the cost and impact of the Upton and MacArthur amendments had been "discussed at length" in Rules Committee hearings.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is likely to wait for a CBO score before it votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that would be the case later Thursday. It’s unclear what the support for the bill as it stands now is in that chamber.

But the Washington Examiner reports that the Senate will write its own version of the bill and not take up the House version passed Thursday.

Sen. Michael Bennet, however, made it known that he would not be voting for the bill no matter its CBO score.

“I am willing to work with anyone to fix and improve our health care system, but today’s bill takes us in exactly the wrong direction. This misguided approach would cause hundreds of thousands of Coloradans to lose their coverage, with those in our rural communities hit the hardest,” Bennet said in a statement.

“It would also return us to the days when health insurers could discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions," Bennet continued. "For people who are allowed to keep their coverage, it will reduce benefits and increase costs. I will do everything I can to stop this legislation in the Senate and work in a bipartisan way on real solutions.”

Gardner didn’t get into specifics on policy, but said he would work to “complete” the AHCA with colleagues in the Senate.

“Obamacare is in a state of disarray, and not acting to fix it would have terrible consequences for our state. Coloradans have had their premiums sky rocket, doctors changed, and plans canceled because of Obamacare,” he said.

“Without congressional action, insurance companies have predicted double digit increases on the individual market for plan year 2018, in addition to the double digit increases Coloradans were hit with in the year prior. I look forward to working with my colleagues to complete a measure that leads to more choices, lower costs, and improved care for all Coloradans.”

Trump held a celebration at the White House Rose Garden directly after the vote and said he was confident the bill would pass the Senate.

"Your premiums will start to come down," Trump promised on Thursday. "This will get through the Senate. I am confident. When it comes to deductibles, it was so ridiculous, people didn’t use them." They will decrease, Trump declared. 


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