Republican 'no' votes mount on Obamacare repeal
March 20--Bucks County U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said he will not vote for the Republican-drafted bill to replace the Affordable Care Act without changes to that measure, making him one of two Pennsylvania Republicans to say they oppose the health care legislation ahead of an expected vote later this week.
Fitzpatrick is the only Pennsylvanian listed among the 17 House GOP "no" votes tallied by The Hill news outlet. Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of York County also said during a town hall Saturday that he is a "no" on the legislation because the bill "does not drive the cost of health care down," according to the Associated Press.
In a statement posted on Facebook Saturday evening, Fitzpatrick wrote, "After considering the current health care bill in a thorough and deliberate manner, I have concluded that, although the American Health Care Act focuses on several much-needed reforms to our health care system, in its current form I cannot support this legislation."
Fitzpatrick's decision adds to the mounting pressure on GOP congressional leaders and the Trump administration with a vote expected Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives on the repeal measure. President Trump has been lobbying legislators, meeting last week with a group of conservatives in the Oval Office, and Vice President Mike Pence has held similar meetings on Capitol Hill.
In his statement about the bill, Fitzpatrick expressed concern primarily with how it would affect efforts to combat opioid abuse.
"I have many concerns with this bill, and first among them is the impact on the single most important issue plaguing Bucks and Montgomery Counties, and the issue that I have made my priority in Congress: opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery," Fitzpatrick said.
Democrats and health economists have said the bill would reduce access to opioid treatment through the Medicaid program, which Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says has allowed nearly 125,000 Pennsylvanians to get addiction treatment services.
Fueled by easy access to heroin and prescription opiates, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, surpassing car accidents in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Fitzpatrick said he is continuing to urge House leadership to address concerns about the bill. He described the current approach to health care set up through the Obamacare bill as an "unsustainable" system that has led to rising premiums and a lack of competition, but added that officials should "take our time" in order to get the changes right.
As of Sunday, the tally by Washington, D.C.-based The Hill stood at 17 House Republicans opposed to the repeal measure. With Democrats expected to vote against it, the GOP majority cannot lose support from more than 21 lawmakers and still pass the legislation to the Senate.
In addition to Fitzpatrick and Perry, other conservative and moderate Republicans throughout the Pennsylvania delegation also have expressed concerns about provisions in the legislation.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15th District, which includes Lehigh County and part of Northampton County, said late last week he has "serious concerns and reservations" about the current version of the repeal bill.
Dent and other members of the centrist Republicans' Tuesday Group met with Pence last week to talk about their views that the tax credits to offset premium costs are too small, and concerns about the effect of halting the Medicaid expansion in 2020, a change that conservatives have sought to enact sooner.
Dent said he expects the bill will be changed before it receives a vote in the House.
Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, whose 7th District is based in Delaware County, voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee.
But after the Congressional Budget Office analysis was released projecting the measure would increase the number of Americans without health insurance, Meehan's spokesman told the Philadelphia Inquirer the congressman would be talking to colleagues to determine "whether it's prudent to move forward with the legislation."
One of President Donald Trump's biggest supporters in Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, whose 11th District includes part of Carbon County, also has not yet said he'll vote for the bill. Barletta said he's reviewing the bill's effects on his district, and told CNN on Friday he believes Trump has been listening to concerns from legislators in an effort to resolve them.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday during an interview with Fox News that amendments to the bill are under consideration.
Those include increasing the tax credits for older Americans, imposing a work requirement on some Medicaid recipients, and additional changes to how states receive federal money for their Medicaid programs.