Herrera Beutler votes against GOP’s health bill

Inslee, other Washington Democrats blast House approval of measure

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler bucked her party on Thursday and voted against the GOP-backed health care bill, which would replace much of the Affordable Care Act.

The measure passed the U.S. House on a 217-213 vote.

Herrera Beutler — who has long called for a repeal of “Obamacare” — said she worked with her party’s leadership to push for changes to legislation called the American Health Care Act, but that the changes didn’t go far enough.

“The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children still need to be addressed. For the last several weeks, I fought to include my amendment to strengthen the Medicaid safety net for the kids who depend on it for their health care,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement. “Protecting vulnerable children is a core purpose of the Medicaid program, and when the program fails to do so, it fails entirely. I could not vote to let those kids fall through the cracks.”

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the eight members of Washington’s House delegation, including two Republicans, Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who voted against the bill.

Inslee called Thursday “a shameful day in American history,” adding that the Republican-backed health care bill would strip coverage from 700,000 Washingtonians. The state would lose billions of dollars if it were to become law, he added.

“There is no positive in this bill,” Inslee said.

The reason behind the bill, Washington’s governor alleged, is to free up financing for big tax cuts for the wealthy.

“It’s the old switcheroo of favoring tax cuts for the rich over the health care for working people in Washington,” Inslee said.

Thursday’s vote came before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could complete its review of the bill. In its review of the original legislation in March, however, it projected 24 million Americans would lose health care coverage.

Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler added his voice to the criticism coming from many state elected leaders, saying the American Health Care Act, or “Trumpcare,” removes consumer protections and allows states to no longer provide key health benefits.

“States could also eliminate a rule that requires insurance companies to accept all enrollees, regardless of their health condition. In exchange for charging sicker people much higher premiums, states would be required to set up special high-risk pools for individuals with costly illnesses, such as cancer,” Kreidler said.

Only Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane., voted in favor of the bill out from Washington’s House delegation. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside., was reportedly in favor of the measure but did not vote.

McMorris Rodgers called Thursday historic.

“With the American Health Care Act, the House voted to keep its promise to the American people: we’re going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a health care system that puts them — not the federal government — in control of their health care decisions. After marathon markups, listening to feedback from doctors and patients and advocates, and tough conversations with our colleagues, we came together to ensure this bill that will improve lives. I’m very proud of our work, and of the leadership of my colleagues who have been working on these reforms for years,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, vowed to fight the measure in the Senate.

“I’m appalled by the action taken today in the House to jam Trumpcare through, regardless of the extraordinary harm it would do to patients and families,” Sen. Murray said in a statement, adding that House Republicans voted “to raise premiums and undo protections for people with pre-existing conditions, take coverage away from tens of millions of people, end Medicaid as we know it, cut off access to critical health care services at Planned Parenthood, and more–all while giving insurance companies and the very wealthy massive tax breaks.”

At the state level, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, the ranking member of the Senate Health Care Committee, said Democrats will be analyzing the fine print of the federal legislation. Cleveland said the state’s insurance marketplace serves more than 1.8 million people and has reduced the uninsured rate by 60 percent.

“Congress rushed to a vote before the bill could be scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to determine how much it would cost and what it would do,” Cleveland said in a statement, noting the earlier CBO analysis that 24 million would lose coverage in the next decade. “This is simply unacceptable. Citizens in our state need to know that we are carefully working to identify and craft state solutions to any federal changes that would affect Washingtonians, in the event the U.S. Senate passes the bill.”