Democrats and health groups charted out their next moves to protect the Affordable Care Act and turn up the pressure on Republicans, who are defending their health-care overhaul legislation they barely managed to heave across the finish line in the House on Thursday.
President Trump, who had hosted House members at the White House to congratulate themselves on passing the embattled bill, insisted Friday morning it will ultimately improve the health-care system, whose problems Republicans have blamed on Obamacare for years.
“Big win in the House — very exciting!” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “But when everything comes together with the inclusion of Phase 2, we will have truly great health care!”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post published Thursday night that the bill “isn’t perfect” but is still a “major improvement” to the Affordable Care Act.
“It doesn’t include every single component I wanted,” McMorris Rodgers wrote. “But it came down to the [American Health Care Act] or the continued disaster of Obamacare, which was an easy choice.”
Yet the GOP health-care bill, which now heads over to the Senate, is likely to be a big political hot potato in next year’s election, as it could disrupt health insurance for millions of Americans by dismantling big parts of the Affordable Care Act.
The optics are so bad for Republicans, that top political prognosticator the Cook Political Report shifted ratings for 20 GOP lawmakers to indicate tighter races in the 2018 midterms than previously imagined.
Cook switched House races from “lean Republican” to “toss-up” for Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.), Steve Knight (Calif.) and Jason Lewis (Minn.). It also moved 11 districts from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” and six districts from “solid Republican to likely Republican.”
Democratic political groups are poised and ready to attack moderate Republicans who supported it and could be vulnerable in 2018.
After Rep. Chris Collins told CNN that he hadn’t read the entire text of the legislation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was quick to blast the Republican from New York, saying he “doesn’t respect or care about” his constituents.
“This disturbing admission makes it clear that Collins doesn’t respect or care about the people who sent him to Washington,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Evan Lukaske. “Instead of reading pharmaceutical stock financial statements, Collins should actually read the legislation that would take away health care from thousands of his constituents.”
And Republicans returning home to their districts faced angry protesters. Constituents gathered outside the offices of Reps. Patrick J. Tiberi (Ohio) and Fred Upton (Mich.), both states that stand to lose the health-care law’s new federal dollars for expanding their Medicaid programs.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Reps. David Valadao of California, Billy Long (Mo.), David B. McKinley (W. Va.) and Bruce Poliquin (Maine) were among other members targeted by frustrated constituents. In Texas, anti-Trump activists planned to demonstrate on the state’s capital grounds.
Health associations, who were largely dismayed by the GOP health-care legislation, are turning their attention to Senate Republicans, who will now take on the issue in the next few months.
They’re putting pressure on senators to ensure a final bill revamping President Barack Obama’s health-care law doesn’t cost millions of Americans the insurance coverage they gained under it. Some of the leading groups have asked the Senate to ditch the House-passed legislation and work on bipartisan fixes to the health-care law instead.
“We urge the Senate to promptly put aside the AHCA, and instead work with our organizations to achieve real bipartisan solutions to improve affordability, access, and coverage for all,” said a statement released jointly by six groups including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians.
Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, said the GOP bill would result in millions of people losing coverage but said “action is needed … to improve the current health care insurance system.”
Health insurers are pleased the GOP health-care bill would repeal the law’s taxes, but dislike other parts, like how it would reduce the insurance subsidies available to people without employer-sponsored coverage.
“We stand ready to work with members of the Senate and all policymakers, offering our recommendations for how this bill can be improved to ensure the private market delivers affordable coverage for all Americans,” America’s Health Insurance Plans chief executive Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement.
The Senate may not even use the health-care bill House Republicans passed this week, but instead start from scratch. A group of 12 Republicans are working on their own plan to replace Obama’s health-care law.
They include the leaders of two top health-care committees — Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — along with several members in leadership including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.). Several prominent conservatives, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), are also among the dozen members.
Despite those efforts, the White House insisted Friday there will be no substantive changes to the underlying parts of the House bill, which reshapes and reduces the law’s insurance subsidies and repeals its Medicaid expansion.
“Never underestimate this president. He’s shown time and time again when he’s committed to something it’s going to get done,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We expect there to be some changes, but we expect the principles and main pillars of the health care bill as they exist now to remain the same.”