Watertown Daily Times
May 3, 2017
It appears that some Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives like Obamacare more than they previously let on.
In their evolving proposal to reform health care, called the American Health Care Act, congressional leaders inserted a provision allowing states to seek waivers for specific parts of the Affordable Care Act. One aspect that would change is the current protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Another is a mandate of what services insurers must cover in their policies.
An amendment attached to the proposed legislation, however, would exempt House members and their staffs from these waivers. They would, in other words, continue to benefit from the protections offered in the ACA.
U.S. Rep. Thomas C. MacArthur, R-N.J., who wrote the amendment, said wording in the provision had to comply with Senate rules.
“Because the health care bill is being done through reconciliation — a special budget bill immune to filibuster — its language must have an effect on the budget to comply with Senate rules,” according to a story published Thursday by The Hill.
Whatever their stated intentions for this move, House members were called out for their apparent hypocrisy. U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, joined the chorus of those insisting that members of Congress live by the same rules they impose on all other Americans. She co-authored a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Martha E. McSally, R-Ariz., to eliminate the amendment.
“Congress should live by the same laws it passes onto the rest of the nation,” Ms. Stefanik said in a recent statement. “This is why I receive my health care through the Obamacare exchanges, though I decline the congressional subsidy. This commonsense legislation would ensure members of Congress do not receive special treatment if the AHCA becomes law.”
A previous version of the AHCA was withdrawn because it did not have enough votes among House Republicans to pass. The revised bill seeks to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus, who didn’t believe the legislation went far enough to repeal ACA provisions.
Ms. Stefanik has set a good example on this issue. As she said in her statement, she obtained a health insurance policy through the exchange system — despite consistently opposing the ACA. And she declined a congressional subsidy for her insurance, preferring to pay for this coverage herself.
And now she has reiterated her belief that members of Congress must abide by the policies they establish for the rest of us. We support her principled stance and encourage her to continue to lead her colleagues in an effort to improve the GOP health care bill.
House members must act in the interests of all Americans, and we urge them to discuss compromises on their health care reform measure. While the ACA has serious flaws that must be addressed, it also has important provisions that remain very popular.
If they curtail appeals to extremist Republicans, congressional leaders will likely need to rely more on Democrats to pass a repeal-and-replace bill. Republicans were correct when they criticized the Obama administration for enacting the ACA without any GOP support. Let’s hope they don’t repeat this error.