Local Republican reps help GOP health bill through the House; Democrats decry bill as 'hurtling our nation toward disaster'

Relieved Republicans pushed their prized health care bill through the House Thursday, and local GOP Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed were there to help it through.

The two congressmen — whose districts cover part of the Finger Lakes region, including all of Ontario County between them — logged "yes" in the mostly party-line 217-213 vote. It advances a bill that addresses Republicans’ longtime pledge to erase the 2010 Obama health care law, the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as "Obamacare."

“This puts us even closer to ending the Obamacare nightmare that has plagued Americans for the last seven years,” Collins stated. “The legislation passed today increases competition and gives people the power to make their own choices with their own health care. The American Health Care Act is a drastic improvement over the failing health care system Obamacare has left us with.”

Collins stated that for residents in his 27th district — which includes the western half of Ontario County, including Canandaigua, Farmington and Victor — it would result in more than $470 million in property tax savings. The proposal would only apply to the $2.3 billion being raised from counties outside of New York City to pay for the state’s Medicaid share.

“Beyond the property tax savings for New Yorkers, the legislation improves access and affordability, and removes more than $800 billion in onerous taxes and fees that have been stifling the economy and eliminating job growth,” Collins stated.

The congressman also stated that in 2017, 33 percent of counties nationwide had only one insurer on their exchange, “and many counties are being left without any insurance providers.” He claimed the ACA had raised insurance premiums by nearly 40 percent in the last three years. “Recently, thousands of New Yorkers experienced the pain of Obamacare when they were kicked off their insurance plans because their provider, Health Republic, collapsed,” Collins added.

Reed, calling the vote "a great victory for the American people," stated, "The AHCA upholds protections for pre-existing conditions and the expansion of Medicaid, which help our most vulnerable populations.  The bill will also provide much needed property tax relief for New Yorkers who are unfairly forced to foot the bill for Medicaid. We care about giving people the freedom and flexibility to make their own health decisions while providing promised tax relief for middle-income families and small business owners.”

Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter of Fairport, blasted the vote. The law would “rip away healthcare from tens of millions of Americans,” Slaughter stated.

“Republicans in Congress are hurling our nation toward disaster,” stated Slaughter. “Despite the slapdash changes made recently to this bill, the facts haven’t changed. This repeal kicks 24 million people off their health insurance, guts essential health benefits like doctors’ visits, maternity care, and prescription drug coverage, and places a crushing age tax costing thousands on those aged 50 to 64, all while cutting more than $800 billion from Medicaid to pay for a nearly trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy.

“This bill eliminates the safety net for those with pre-existing conditions. It shreds that safety net under the Affordable Care Act by letting states decide whether or not sick Americans can get the care they need,” added Slaughter. “Millions of people would pay soaring premiums if they could afford any coverage at all.”

Rep. John Katko, R-24th Dist., was one of the handful of Republicans who voted against the bill.

"Since I came to Congress, I have maintained that any repeal bill must be accompanied by a full replacement," Katko stated. "While I commend my colleagues and the President for working to address the significant problems created by Obamacare, the measure before the House today fails to control costs and would impose a significant tax burden on New Yorkers. This measure now moves to the Senate, where significant policy changes are expected.  I will remain a constructive part of that process and urge my colleagues in the Senate to continue working towards viable, market-based solutions to Obamacare." 

Thursday’s vote sends the measure to the Senate, where it is expected to undergo substantial changes. To become law, both the House and Senate would need to approve one bill and that is then signed by the President.

The Associated Press and Daily Messenger news partner News 10NBC contributed to this report.

Political Roundup, a clearinghouse of announcements and developments in local politics, runs on Fridays in the Daily Messenger. To submit an item for consideration, email senior reporter Julie Sherwood at jsherwood@messengerpostmedia.com.