Health Care

Calls for Bipartisanship After Health Care Vote

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of the Ohio and Pennsylvania congressional delegations reacted later Friday to the early-morning defeat of the Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act, mostly with calls for bipartisan cooperation.

GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined Senate Democrats to defeat the Health Care Freedom Act, a “skinny repeal” of the health-care law. It would have removed the individual mandate that Americans have health insurance and the requirement that large employers offer their workers coverage.

It would, however, have offered place other incentives for people to get coverage.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in a statement issued just before 8 a.m., urged Democrats and Republicans to work together following last night’s vote.

“This bill failed because people in Ohio and all across the country spoke out and shared their stories,” Brown said. “Let’s kick the drug company and insurance industry lobbyists out, listen to the people we serve and come together to lower prices and make health care work better for everyone.”

The junior senator from Ohio, Republican Rob Portman expressed his disappointment that the Senate won’t move toward a House-Senate conference, the stated objective of the skinny repeal legislation. He acknowledged both Democrats and Republicans are “rightly frustrated” and urged Congress to “come together as an institution” to do better for Ohioans and all Americans.

“I know some may want to throw in the towel and do nothing, but I don’t believe that is the responsible course of action. Doing nothing would leave tens of thousands of Ohioans stranded without health insurance and everyone with higher costs,” he said. “We can do better, and I’m not giving up.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, echoed the sentiment of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: “We’re not celebrating. We’re relieved.”

The vote, Ryan said, was not only a victory for people who would have been affected by passage, including Americans living with disabilities or pre-existing conditions, battling addiction or facing economic hardships but for political engagement.

“Every phone call, letter and tweet helped stop for now this dangerous and destructive legislation,” Ryan said. “Now that we’re here, it is urgent that Congressional Republicans engage with Democrats in a meaningful way to continue to expand coverage to all, and make it as affordable as possible. The American people are not interested in cheap political points. They want results.”

Ryan also sought to use the vote to raise funds. A separate email from his political campaign echoed sentiments from his statement but also called for supporters to “remain vigilant.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, in a video message on Facebook, expressed his disappointment and frustration that the Senate didn’t follow the lead of the House of Representatives and address “the collapse of Obamacare,” as he put it. He too called on Democrats and Republicans to work together.

There was ample blame to go around, from the Democrats who originally passed the ACA to Senate Republicans who “failed to replace it with something better” when given the chance, the Republican congressman said.

“So this morning we find ourselves in the same situation we were in yesterday, and in fact for the last several years. Obamacare hasn’t lived up to its pie-in-the-sky promises,” Johnson said. “Instead, it’s failing and getting worse every single day, especially in eastern and southeastern Ohio where many will be left without a provider come next January.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., commended his three Republican colleagues for joining with Democrats to defeat what he characterized as a “terrible bill for the middle class.” That’s explains its defeat, he said.

“It’s now time for Democrats and Republicans to work together on common sense solutions that will make our health care system more affordable and bring down costs for families,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., expressed his disappointment with the “setback” to fix the “broken” health-care system. “For the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians suffering from the higher costs and fewer choices caused by Obamacare’s collapse, Congress must not give up on repealing and replacing the failed health care law,” he said.

Wendy Patton, Policy Matters Ohio senior project manager, weighed in, describing the Republican defeat as a “huge victory, one that helps protect Ohio’s public health gains and sharp drop in uninsurance rates due to the Affordable Care Act.” Passage of any Republican bill Congress debated would have done “untold damage for Ohioans,” particularly the state’s most vulnerable populations.

“Make no mistake: after this high-stakes loss for GOP leadership, we can expect continued attacks on Medicaid and the ACA from many angles,” Patton said. “But right now, we thank the representatives and senators who stood up for affordable, accessible, quality health care coverage, and encourage constructive efforts to strengthen health care moving forward.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.