June 30, 2020
Houlahan, others support health care expansion
All four of the suburban Philadelphia Congressional delegation voted to pass new health care legislation designed to expand “Obamacare” Monday. It’s a measure that’s doomed to advance no further, but spotlights how the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s efforts to obliterate the law have fortified health care’s potency as a 2020 campaign issue.
The quartet — three first-term Democratic representatives and a second-term Republican — are all running for re-election this year, and may see healthcare as a popular issue to help in their campaigns.
According to U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th, of Easttown, whose district includes all of Chester County and most of south Berks County, including the city of Reading, the bill would lower Americans’ health coverage costs through tax credit expansions, and negotiates lower prescription drug prices, expands coverage by funding critical federal and state efforts to increase health coverage enrollment.
She contends it also combats inequity in health coverage faced by communities of color, cracks down on junk plans and strengthens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“Since announcing my candidacy for Congress, it has been a priority to protect and enhance health care for those in my community, Commonwealth, and country,” said Houlahan in a statement following the 234-179 vote.
She said the bill, which faces an almost certain failure in the Republican controlled Senate, “is another step on the march towards a country where every individual, including those with pre-existing conditions, has access to quality and affordable health care. Especially obvious in a pandemic, it is always the job of Congress to support our country’s health care initiatives, not strip them away.
She was join Edin voting for the legislation by U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-5th, of Glenside, Montgomery County, Mary Ann Scanlon, D-4th, of Swarthmore, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st, of Levittown. Fitzpatrick, who has opposed efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act in the past, was one of only two Republicans to vote for the package.
Republicans, who’ve never relented since unanimously opposing former President Barack Obama’s 2010 statue, called the measure a blow to the nation’s health care system during a pandemic and a political stunt.
“This bill attempts to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to resuscitate tired, partisan proposals,” the White House wrote in its statement. It said provisions curbing prescription drug costs would cut pharmaceutical company revenues and “undermine the American innovation the entire globe is depending on” by crimping their research on developing vaccines and treatments.
GOP lawmakers’ votes against the House measure seemed certain to pop up in campaign spots this fall. In a taste of those ads, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday’s vote gave lawmakers a choice between strengthening health care protections or being “complicit” in Trump’s effort to dismantle it.
“Make no mistake,” said Pelosi. “A vote against this bill is a vote to weaken Americans’ health and financial security during a pandemic.”
Democrats used Trump’s and the GOP’s failed 2017 efforts to erase Obama’s law as their chief issue in the 2018 elections, helping them capture House control by gaining 40 seats.
They’ve talked ever since about reprising that theme in this year’s campaigns by focusing on curbing drug and health care costs and saying Republicans want to dismantle the Obama law’s patient protections. Republicans have denied that that is their goal.
Last week, the White House made a move that Democrats say provides them with fresh ammunition and that even some Republicans consider a political blunder.
It filed papers with the Supreme Court backing Republican-run states’ drive to have Obama’s entire law declared unconstitutional. The increasingly popular statute has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans, and required insurers to cover patients with preexisting conditions and include children up to age 26 under their parent’s policies.
Debate also came as the number of cases of COVID-19, the disease that coronavirus causes, has begun soaring anew in more than half the states, including many that relaxed restriction on activities aimed at preventing the illness’ spread. The United States reported 38,800 newly confirmed coronavirus infections Monday, boosting the total over 2.5 million. More than 125,000 Americans have died, the highest figure in the world.
The House bill would expand tax credits for lower-earning Americans for paying insurance premiums, let more people qualify for subsidies and cap the portion of income some consumers would pay for coverage. It would let the government negotiate with pharmaceutical makers over drug prices, and block low-cost plans the Trump administration has permitted that don’t require coverage of people with preexisting conditions.
The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that nearly 27 million people have lost employer-provided coverage because of pandemic-related layoffs. Nearly half a million people have gotten “Obamacare” policies, the government said last week.
The White House filed papers with the Supreme Court last week supporting an effort by GOP-led states to have the entire “Obamacare” statute declared unconstitutional.
Republicans have argued that the health care law became unconstitutional when Congress passed a 2017 tax bill eliminating the statute’s fines on people who dont have health insurance.
But that tax measure left intact the health care law’s requirement that nearly all Americans get health coverage. Republicans have argued that with the tax penalty abolished, the coverage requirement and the entire law must be invalidated.
It is not clear whether justices will hear oral arguments before this November’s election. A decision is unlikely until next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Source