California Congress members face quandary over Republican health plan (Issa flip-flops)

Hundreds of Affordable Care Act supporters rally in Vista

With the House expected to vote this week on the American Health Care Act, the GOP leadership’s first swipe at repealing the nation’s landmark health care law, California’s 14 congressional Republicans find themselves in a delicate position. Seven of them represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton, and many of their constituents could lose coverage under the GOP health plan.

Since the Republican bill was introduced earlier this month, a few California Republicans have come forward to say they support the legislation. At least one is opposing it and others have been silent or noncommittal, especially after the release of a Congressional Budget Office report suggesting that up to 24 million Americans could lose their insurance coverage under the bill.

A recent analysis by Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange, found that many Californians could be priced out of exchange coverage because of an average 40 percent drop in subsidies by 2020, as reported by the CBO. In addition, more than 13 million low-income people depend for coverage on Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California), which could offer 25 percent less funding than Obamacare by 2026, according to the CBO.

California Healthline contacted all 14 Republican House members in California last week. Only five responded, all through staffers with a written statement. None agreed to an interview.

Among those who did not respond to inquiries, some had expressed their views though earlier statements or other news outlets.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who narrowly won re-election in November, said last week he “is not prepared” to vote for the AHCA as it stands. “I think we can do better,” he said on Fox News, citing affordability concerns. Issa’s press office did not respond to several attempts by California Healthline to get an updated statement from the Southern California congressman, who is believed to be a top Democratic target in 2018.

Surprise! Issa flip-flopped Tuesday after attending a meeting with President Trump.

Issa, who last week said the legislation was “not in a form I can approve of” pivoted Tuesday saying that he, too, was leaning yes. Some of his main concerns about the bill were addressed in changes proposed in recent days, the Vista Republican said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) at his March 11 town hall said he supported the Republican bill. “The repeal and replace as it stands now is OK,” he said. “We’ve done as much as we can do through the reconciliation process to repeal Obamacare. Obamacare is simply a takeover of the health care business by the US government.”

In various venues, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove), who faced anti-repeal protesters at a raucous town hall earlier this year, has sent mixed signals on where he stands.

McClintock voted to advance the budget resolution that began the repeal process for Obamacare. Later, he told news outlets that he had philosophical problems with the budget reconciliation approach used by House Speaker Paul Ryan and said he prefers to remove “all vestiges” of Obamacare by the roots.

In a March 16 interview with Fox News, McClintock said he believed that although “there’s no such thing as a perfect bill, everything is a compromise,” and that the legislation is “moving us in the right direction.” Still, he said, “it’s very important that we not leave anyone in the lurch” as Americans move to a new health insurance landscape.

Contacted by California Healthline this month in regards to a story about Medi-Cal, Rep Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) described the program as “a broken healthcare system that’s been completely mismanaged by the state of California.”

“The problems have particularly affected residents of the Central Valley, where specialized doctors are so scarce that vast numbers of Valley residents have to go to Los Angeles or the Bay Area for specialized treatment,” his statement read. “Under the American Health Care Act, all citizens will have the ability to get coverage if they want it. My expectation is that healthcare for Valley residents will dramatically improve.”

Nunes’ staff did not respond to further inquiries.

Below are statements from the five House Republicans who responded.

If It’s Broken — And It Is — Fix It

Our healthcare system was broken before Obamacare, but Obamacare made it even worse.


GOP Bill Will Empower Americans With Choice

Obamacare continues to collapse under its own weight. Premiums are skyrocketing. Insurers are pulling out of the marketplace, leaving some counties with no providers at all and others with only one choice.


Great In Theory But What About In Practice?

In reviewing this bill, it seems to address many of my constituents’ concerns, including protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing individuals up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance and keeping the ban on lifetime coverage limits.


System Is On Life Support And We Need To Act

With premiums rising, deductibles increasing and health care choices decreasing, American families know all too well that Obamacare is collapsing. That’s exactly why I promised the voters in my district that I would take action and work to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care solutions that actually reduce costs and expand choices.

This Is Just The First Step

The new plan presented by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is a good start for the discussion.


Used by permission, this story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. For more, visit California Healthline.

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