May 4, 2017

Pearce votes yes as House passes sweeping healthcare bill

Capitol Hill Building, Washington DC

House Republicans passed a sweeping health care bill that could reshape the American healthcare system for the second time in less than a decade. If passed by the Senate, the bill would put hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans at risk of losing their health coverage.

The legislation passed today, the American Health Care Act, is the culmination of years of criticism by Republicans of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The bill to replace the ACA passed on a 217-213 vote.

Only one of New Mexico’s representatives, Republican Steve Pearce, voted for the legislation. The other two House members, Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, joined with all other House Democrats in opposing the bill.

In a statement, Pearce said “While today’s bill is in no way perfect, it is a step in the right direction.”

He continued: “My decision on today’s health care bill, as with all bills, came down to its overall impact on the lives of the New Mexican people. This is a step-by-step approach, of which this is merely the first.”

Pearce is part of the House Freedom Caucus, a hardline conservative bloc of House members that successfully pushed the health care legislation to the right after a failed repeal attempt in March.

Luján called the bill’s passage “shameful.”

“The frantic effort by President Trump and House Republicans to ram through a harmful and disastrous healthcare repeal bill today – with no hearings, with no idea what it will cost or how many people’s lives and health will be destroyed—is nothing short of shameful,” the northern New Mexico Democrat said in a statement. “In short, this bill is bad for seniors; it’s bad for veterans; and it’s bad for middle-class and working families—the only people it is good for is Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and their political base.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham also slammed the bill, saying she was “Disappointed and quite frankly very angry” about the bill.

“There are so many things that we could be doing in this country today to reinvest in a relationship between patients, consumers and their health care providers, and ensuring health care is a right,” she said. “We should be negotiating drug prices and making insurance transparent.”

Twenty Republicans joined Democrats and voted against the legislation.

Democrats criticized Republicans for the bill’s substance, and also the process of passing it.

The vote occurred before the Congressional Budget Office provided analysis of the costs and effects of the legislation. It’s also likely that many who voted on the lengthy bill had not read it in its entirety.

CBO’s analysis of similar legislation proposed by Republicans earlier this year found it would mean 24 million Americans could lose their health insurance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the Senate would not begin working on the bill until the CBO scored the legislation.

Related story: Report: Uninsured rate would jump in NM under House GOP bill

The bill would end Medicaid expansion in 2020. More than 30 states, including New Mexico accepted the expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

The bill would also allow insurers to charge older Americans up to five times more than younger Americans. The ACA allowed for insurers to charge just three times more.

In recent weeks, after the first aborted attempt by the House to pass healthcare legislation, the focus turned to whether the law should protect those with pre-existing conditions. House Republicans added $8 billion that would go to states for high-risk pools as an attempt to aid those with pre-existing conditions.

The question now is whether the legislation can get 50 votes to pass the Senate. In the event of a tie vote, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. It’s also unclear what changes senators might make to the bill.

The bill received a cold reception from both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators—both of whom are Democrats.

Before the House vote, Sen. Tom Udall called the bill an “appalling display of broken promises and misguided priorities.”

He added that under the bill, hundreds of thousands of middle-class and low-income New Mexicans would lose their health coverage, and that it would affect rural New Mexicans most of all.

Sen. Martin Heinrich said after the vote he was “extremely disappointed” that House Republicans voted to pass the bill, which he called TrumpCare.

“TrumpCare will take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and offer as a replacement underfunded high-risk pools—where they will likely receive limited coverage and face higher costs,” Heinrich said. “The American people do not deserve a plan that will allow the super-rich to get a tax cut of more than $200,000, while leaving children, elderly and the sick behind. “

Some Republican Senators have already signaled they cannot support the current version of the healthcare bill.

The bill was opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Association and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

AMA President Andrew W. Gurman said immediately after the vote the House bill would “result in millions of Americans losing access to quality, affordable health insurance and those with pre-existing health conditions face the possibility of going back to the time when insurers could charge them premiums that made access to coverage out of the question.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump Tweeted, “If victorious, Republicans will be having a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House immediately after vote!”

Update: Added quote from Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Correction: While we reported that congressional reporters said they saw cases of beer being sent to the White House and Congress, the beer was not for a celebration of the passage of the bill.