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Collins votes to repeal & replace Obamacare with 'health care system' people 'deserve'; Higgins says 'desperate move' to destroy Affordable Care Act 'a disgusting assault'

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Thu, May 4th 2017 04:10 pm

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, voted Thursday to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act, which he said "will improve access, reduce costs and provide Americans with the health care system they deserve."

"This puts us even closer to ending the Obamacare nightmare that has plagued Americans for the last seven years," Collins said. "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."

For Western New Yorkers, he said the bill also includes the largest property tax reduction ever to be enacted. The legislation includes an amendment Collins introduced that would bar federal reimbursements for New York state Medicaid funds raised from local governments.

"My commonsense proposal will fix the finances of counties across New York for decades to come and, most importantly, keep money in the pockets of hardworking Western New Yorkers," Collins said. "This puts a stop to this massive unfunded mandate coming out of Albany once and for all."

For residents in New York's 27th Congressional District, Collins said 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. New York state currently raises $7 billion from its local governments to fund its $27 billion Medicaid liability, which is the largest such mandate in the nation.

Beyond the property tax savings for New Yorkers, Collins said 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 indicated these improvements are absolutely necessary because the current health care system has completely failed. In 2017, 33 percent of counties nationwide only have one insurer on their exchange, and many counties are being left without any insurance providers.

Collins also said Obamacare has unsustainably raised insurance premiums by nearly 40 percent in the past three years. Recently, he said, thousands of New Yorkers experienced the pain of Obamacare when they were kicked off their insurance plans because their provider, Health Republic, collapsed.

Collins said the American Health Care Act:

•Eliminates the individual and employer mandate, which forced millions of workers, families and job creators into government-mandated plans that did not work for their needs.

•Guarantees protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions by prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, banning insurers from rescinding coverage based on a pre-existing condition, and preventing insurers from raising premiums on individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage.

Additionally, New York state law fully protects individuals with pre-existing conditions.

•Modernizes and strengthens Medicaid by implementing a "per capita allotment," which provides more flexibility for states and results in the largest entitlement reform in decades.

•Provides Americans access to affordable care that works for their needs by delivering monthly tax credits of $2,000-$14,000 a year, which individuals and families can use to purchase private insurance of their choice.

Conversely, Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, said "the Republican move to ram through repeal of the Affordable Care Act" is "a display of congressional incompetence with heartbreaking consequences for the American people."

"Today's rush for a vote put politics before people, representing a determination to do something rather than to do good," he said. "This bill is an attack on the most vulnerable: older Americans, children, Americans with disabilities, and those fighting for their lives. It will cost people their health and financial stability - and the greater the need for health care, the greater the cost."

Higgins said the American Health Care Act does and/or removes the following protections for patients:

•Pre-existing conditions: Allows insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, pushing individuals to high-risk pools that often provide less coverage at a higher cost.

•Allows for the elimination of essential benefits, which includes coverage for: prescription drugs; emergency care and hospitalization; maternity, newborn and pediatric care; and substance use and mental health services.

•Age tax: Allows insurance companies to charge individuals ages 50-64 much higher premiums, making insurance unaffordable for older Americans.

•Executive compensation: Allows insurance company CEOs to write-off their multimillion-dollar salaries while charging the hard-working people more.

Higgins said "the Republicans forced a vote on the bill prior to receiving a nonpartisan analysis of the cost and impact of the final package from the congressional budget office."

According to an earlier CBO assessment, Higgins said the American Health Care Act:

•Would result in 14 million new uninsured in 2018 and 52 million total uninsured by 2026.

•A 63-day gap in insurance coverage, increasing one's monthly premium by 30 percent.

Eliminates the prevention and public health fund, no longer investing in prevention and wellness, a move that will cost more in the long-run.

•Includes Medicaid cuts that hurt children, people with disabilities, parents and grandparents in need of long-term care.

Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care, concluded by saying, "The Affordable Care Act was a start not a finish. We can certainly work to further improve upon the great strides we made. This bill however, doesn't come close."

Higgins said the GOP bill was opposed by the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, March of Dimes, American Lung Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Heart Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, AARP, New York Association on Independent Living and Cerebral Palsy Association of NYS. 

The American Health Care Act now heads to the Senate, where it will need to be approved before heading to President Donald Trump's desk to be signed into law.

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