Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10), the chief deputy whip in the House of Representatives, has expressed unwavering support for the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare in interviews on CNBC and CNN. McHenry, a Denver resident, boasts about having voted countless times over the years to repeal Obamacare.
“If we do nothing with Obamacare, folks in Lincoln County and western North Carolina buying healthcare through the exchange will have only one option next year like they did this year, rates are going to go up dramatically and people are going to be worse off,” McHenry said. “I’m supporting a bill that makes things better for next year and for the following year, and removes individual mandates so that the people, not the government, can make their own decisions about health insurance. The bill I support reduces the deficit, brings down insurance premiums over the next decade and is a better option than the disaster that is Obamacare.”
The Republican alternative to Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, has been introduced through the reconciliation process, which allows budget bills to be passed in the Senate without the risk of a filibuster. Through this process, which can be used only once a year, the legislation can pass with 51 votes, as opposed to the usual 60-vote supermajority required. Republicans currently occupy 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
The bill has received mixed reviews since its unveiling, drawing criticism from Democrats and conservative Republicans who have referred to the plan as “Obamacare-lite.” McHenry has advised his fellow Republicans to remain patient and says their concerns will be addressed down the line when the final two phases of the plan are implemented.
“Based off of the budget rules that we have to use to pass this through the Senate with 51 votes, it limits what we can do for healthcare policy,” McHenry said. “Most of the criticism from my fellow Republicans is that we’re not doing medical malpractice reforms and we’re not doing insurance market reforms that will bring down the cost for consumers. Unfortunately, we can’t do it under the Senate rules on this bill, but we will do it with standalone bills that we’re going to pass alongside this bill.”
A report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revealed that the plan unveiled last week would result in an increase of 24 million more uninsured Americans. That number takes into account individuals who are currently insured to avoid the penalty that might choose to drop their coverage. The CBO also reported that the AHCA would reduce the federal budget deficit of nearly $20 trillion by $337 billion over the next nine years.
“The CBO is only looking at phase one of the three phases,” McHenry said. “With phase one we reduce premiums over the next decade by 10 percent, but the CBO doesn’t take into full account phase two and phase three of our reform. The CBO also says that if you don’t have a government tax or penalty then you’re going to have individual Americans decide not to purchase health insurance even if it is well subsidized. Finally, while the CBO refers to coverage, it doesn’t talk about the quality of healthcare. Our goal, my goal, is bigger than just getting people insurance, it’s about getting people better healthcare and that’s why the three phases are highly important.”
On Thursday, the bill received approval from the House Budget Committee, passing with a 19-17 vote. The AHCA, which has the backing of President Donald Trump, will now move to the House Rules Committee for further discussion.