House GOP Votes to Gut Obama Health Care Law; Senate Vote Next - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

House GOP Votes to Gut Obama Health Care Law; Senate Vote Next

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President Donald Trump is arguing the health care debate has "really brought the Republican Party together."
He's noting that the party includes many different groups, from conservatives to more moderate Republicans, and that sometimes work at cross-purposes. But hashing out the details on health care, Trump says, helps lay the groundwork for other legislative lifts, such as overhauling the tax code. "This really helps it," he says.
He adds that he expects to have a "tremendous" four - or maybe even eight - years.

Rep. Mark Amodei said in a statement that state and federal health officials have convinced him the plan would not immediately kick Nevadans off of Medicaid or result in state budget deficits. Amodei says he expects the Senate to carry on what he calls a raucous discussion. He opposed previous versions that would have made deeper cuts to federal subsidies and has said he was disappointed in its lack of public vetting.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Thursday they do not support the bill.

The measure skirted through the House by a thin 217-213 vote on Thursday, as all voting Democrats and 20 mostly moderate Republican holdouts voted no. A defeat would have been politically devastating for President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Passage was a product of heavy lobbying by the White House and Republican leaders, plus late revisions that nailed down the final support needed. Leaders rallied rank-and-file lawmakers at a closed-door meeting early Thursday by playing "Eye of the Tiger," the rousing 1980s song from the "Rocky III" film.

"Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote," Ryan said. He added, "Are we going to keep the promises that we made, or are we going to falter?"

The bill now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where even GOP lawmakers say major changes are likely. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the House vote "an important step" to repealing Obama's law and said, "Congress will continue to act on legislation to provide more choices and freedom in health care decisions."

Republicans have promised to erase President Barack Obama's law since its 2010 enactment, but this year - with Trump in the White House and in full control of Congress - is their first real chance to deliver. But polls have shown a public distaste for the repeal effort and a gain in popularity for Obama's statute, and Democrats - solidly opposing the bill - said Republicans would pay a price in next year's congressional elections.

"You vote for this bill, you'll have walked the plank from moderate to radical," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warning Republicans that voters would punish them. "You will glow in the dark on this one."

The bitter health care battle dominated the Capitol even as Congress sent Trump a bipartisan $1 trillion measure financing federal agencies through September. The Senate approved that bill 79-18 a day after the House passed it easily, heading off a weekend federal shutdown that both parties wanted to avoid.

Ryan canceled a March vote on the health care bill because disgruntled conservatives said the measure was too meek while GOP moderates said its cuts were too deep.

He abandoned a second attempt for a vote last week. As late as Tuesday The Associated Press counted 21 GOP opponents - one short of the number that would kill the measure if all Democrats voted no.

Over the past few weeks, the measure was revamped to attract most hard-line conservatives and some GOP centrists. In a final tweak, leaders added a modest pool of money to help people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage, a concern that caused a near-fatal rebellion among Republicans in recent days.

The bill would eliminate tax penalties Obama's law which has clamped down on people who don't buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act 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. It transforms Obama's subsidies for millions buying insurance - largely based on people's incomes and premium costs - into tax credits that rise with consumers' ages.

It would retain Obama's requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.

GOP candidates including Trump put repealing Obama's statute at the top of their campaign pledges, contending it's a failing system that's leaving people with rising health care costs and less access to care.

Democrats defended Obama's law, one of his crowning domestic achievements, for expanding coverage to 20 million Americans and forcing insurers to offer more generous benefits. They said the GOP measure would toss millions off coverage while delivering tax cuts to the wealthy.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that the GOP bill would end coverage for 24 million people over a decade. That office also said the bill's subsidies would be less generous for many, especially lower-earning and older people not yet 65 and qualifying for Medicare.

A CBO estimate for the cost of latest version of their bill was not ready before the House vote.

Earlier this week, moderates objected that constituents with pre-existing conditions could effectively be denied coverage by insurers charging them exorbitant premiums.

But GOP leaders seemed to win over a raft of wavering lawmakers after adding $8 billion over five years for state high-risk pools, aimed at helping seriously ill people pay expensive premiums. That was on top of $130 billion already in the bill for states to help customers, though critics said those amounts were insufficient.

The House overwhelmingly approved a second bill that Republicans wrote to snuff out a glaring political liability. The measure would delete language in the health care measure entitling members of Congress and their staffs to Obama's coverage requirements, even if their home states annul them.

Governor Brian Sandoval released the following statement: 

“My position on the House healthcare bill has not changed. I will continue to stand with Nevadans and work with Senator Heller

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement on legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act:

“If the bill that passed in the House today is signed into law, tens of millions of Americans, including many Nevadans, will lose their healthcare coverage. They will find themselves suddenly unable to access the prescription drugs and treatments they rely on to survive. For millions more, especially those with pre-existing conditions, premiums will skyrocket. The House Republicans’ effort to impose this extremely unpopular piece of legislation on the American people is a transparent attempt to score a win for the Trump administration, but it will go nowhere because the cost is far too high. I will be voting against this bill when it reaches the Senate, and I will continue to stand united with American families against any plan to strip them of their healthcare.”

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) released the following statement:

“I want to repeal Obamacare in a way that benefits Nevadans, but I think that the current bill falls short. I will not support it in its current form in the Senate, and am confident that what the Senate considers and approves will be different from the House bill. We cannot pull the rug out from under states like Nevada that expanded Medicaid and we need assurances that people with pre-existing conditions will be protected. I’ll continue to fight for solutions that lower costs and increase choices for Nevadans, and I remain engaged with Governor Sandoval and Leader McConnell on the issue as the Senate works toward a path forward.”

Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District issued the following statement:

“Trumpcare will not improve health care for Nevadans, but it will give a tax break to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. 

“My office has received countless calls from constituents in Las Vegas and folks around the country who are terrified by the possibility of losing their plans, paying more for coverage, and being segregated into high-risk pools because of pre-existing conditions. I know Republicans have received those same calls, but it is clear they have ignored the pleas of the American people. 

“In return for handing $600 billion to the rich, more than 44,000 people in my district will lose coverage if this disastrous bill lands on President Trump’s desk. Medicaid expansion will be gutted, and older Americans will pay five times more for insurance than younger people. Women’s health care programs will lose more than $200 million over the next decade. Nevadans with mental health and substance abuse disorders will lose access to care. People with pre-existing conditions will be left to fend for themselves. 

“Since I voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the state’s uninsured rate has been cut nearly in half and almost all Nevada children have gained coverage. With this bill, 153,000 Nevadans are placed in jeopardy. With one major illness, they could lose their savings, their homes, their lives.

“People may not remember who gave them health care, but they will remember who takes it away.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen released the statement below following the vote on the controversial American Health Care Act: 

“Today, House Republicans shamefully voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would leave at least 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026. The American Health Care Act would gut billions of dollars from Medicaid and Medicare, give tax breaks to the rich, and put those with pre-existing conditions at risk. 

“In Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District, rural communities will have less access to healthcare options, older Americans will face an “age tax,” paying premiums five times higher than what others pay, and families will have higher deductibles and increased out-of-pocket costs. My Republican colleagues should be ashamed, and I am disappointed they have sold out the American people.”

Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (NV-03) released the following statement after voting against the Republican health care repeal bill, the American Health Care Act:

“When Republicans attempted to bring their disastrous repeal bill for a vote several weeks ago, I made clear that I would not support legislation that drops 24 million Americans off their insurance, implements an age tax for people over the age of 50, and guts Medicaid for millions of our most vulnerable - including nearly 31,000 in my district,” said Congresswoman Jacky Rosen.

“Since introducing their ‘new’ repeal plan, Republicans have purposely kept the American people in the dark, failing to hold even one hearing and irresponsibly holding a vote without an independent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. The GOP has even admitted to not knowing what’s in their bill, and yet they expect us to vote on legislation that could put the lives of millions of Americans at risk?”

“What we do know is that this disastrous repeal plan not only keeps in place the destructive provisions mentioned above, but goes a step further by eliminating protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This bill will hurt innocent lives like James Kish, an 8 year old third-grader with brain cancer from my district. Millions of Americans could be at risk of being denied coverage by insurance companies for having a pre-existing condition. For these reasons, I found it unconscionable to vote for legislation that creates a life and death situation for families and loved ones.”

Nevada State Senator Patricia Spearman and Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle released the following statement upon the passage of the American Health Care Act by the U.S. House of Representatives:

“Today’s outrageous vote in Washington throws hundreds of thousands of Nevadans under the bus. It guts protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allows insurers to discriminate, and will spike premiums so high that many Nevadans won’t be able to afford insurance. We are particularly disappointed that Congressman Amodei caved to partisan pressure and sided with Washington Republicans over working families in Nevada. Senator Heller must immediately stop trying to help Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act and commit to doing everything he can to kill this bill in any form in the Senate.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II released the following statement:
“This bill is a smoking black hole for health care in Nevada, and Congressman Amodei is on notice for this heartless, reckless vote. By voting to strip affordable health care from millions of Americans – including 294,300 residents of Northern Nevada who have pre-existing conditions – to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, Congressman Amodei showed that his loyalty lies with Trump and D.C. Republicans instead of his constituents. Working families in Northern Nevada deserve a member of Congress who protects their health care.

Annette Magnus, Executive Director of Battle Born Progress, released this statement:

“Today’s vote is a shameful display of partisan politics at its worst. Despite unprecedented outrage from constituents, House Republicans, including Mark Amodei, voted to take health care away from thousands of Nevadans and abandon Americans with pre-existing conditions, slash Medicaid, and raise health care costs for all families to give over $600 billion in tax breaks to the very wealthy and the big insurance and drug companies. It is shameful for Mark Amodei to have stood in front of hundreds of Nevadans at a Reno town hall and assure them he would protect their health care and now turns around and betrays them. Amodei’s vote is indefensible. In supporting this bill, Amodei has proven he is willing to play political games with Nevadans’ health care.”

“The President and the Republicans said their proposal would cover everybody and reduce costs. Instead, it takes health care away from at least 24 million Americans, raises costs, guts consumer protections from insurance company abuses, leaves Americans with pre-existing conditions at the whim of insurance companies, and makes radical, permanent cuts to Medicaid. The Republican repeal bill doesn’t improve America’s health care – it wrecks it. We hope Nevada’s Senators Heller and Cortez-Masto stand with Nevadans and reject this bill of lies.”

A statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

“The bill passed by the U.S. House today risks placing millions of Americans into a system in which they could be unable to afford their health coverage.

“Allowing patients to be charged more for coverage based on their health status risks making pre-existing condition protections virtually meaningless. A return to medical underwriting, combined with seriously weakened standards for what constitutes good coverage through the erosion of Essential Health Benefits, sets up a situation whereby payers can cherry-pick their customers and leave patients with serious conditions like cancer with few if any affordable insurance options.

“High-risk pools have not historically been an adequate safety-net. These programs have been unsustainable and underfunded. High-risk pool enrollees were often charged unaffordable premiums—usually 150-200% higher than the average standard rate—and faced potentially long waiting periods and strict coverage limitations; circumstances that are unacceptable for cancer patients and survivors who need immediate treatment and consistent follow-up care.

“Additionally, it is unclear how weakening the essential health benefits standards will affect cancer patients’ access to new therapies and key patient protections like the cap on out-of-pocket costs and the prohibition of lifetime and annual limits, both of which are applied only to essential health benefits. This bill could seriously weaken these key protections, jeopardize access to new therapies and leave cancer patients—both in the individual and employer-based market—vulnerable to higher out-of-pocket costs.

“There is no denying that current law needs improvement, however focusing on lower premiums for healthy people at the expense of the millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions, including more than 16 million cancer survivors, is wrong.

“We call on the Senate to reject this legislation and stand ready to work with all lawmakers to develop policies that improve the law and encourage a strong health insurance market that provides affordable and comprehensive coverage options for those with serious diseases like cancer.”

Statement from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma:

Today is the first of what I am confident will be many historic days ahead as we move toward patient-centered healthcare instead of government-centered healthcare.

I have worked in the field of Medicaid for 20 years and have heard from many mothers like myself who have shared their struggles and their hopes for a more affordable, more sustainable healthcare system.  It is important that our most vulnerable citizens, the aged, the infirm, the blind and the disabled have more choices, greater access and peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare.

The bill that was passed today is a great first step achieving this goal.

(The Associated Press also contributed to this report.)

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