U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette: Republicans are “holding hands and jumping off a cliff” with health care bill

Back in Denver after a 27-hour marathon committee meeting, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said she is “mystified” that Republicans are pushing forward with Obamacare replacement.

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Congresswoman Diana DeGette speaks at a Small Business Saturday event. Nov. 26, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  small business saturday; denver; denverite; retail; kevinjbeaty; colorado;

Congresswoman Diana DeGette speaks at a Small Business Saturday event. Nov. 26, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Back in Denver after a 27-hour marathon committee meeting on Republicans’ Obamacare replacement, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said she is “mystified” that Republicans are pushing forward with a bill that most analyses show will cause health insurance to become less available.

“I’m talking to a lot of my Republican colleagues, and privately a lot of them will admit these things are problems, but they all marched off the cliff together in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” she said. “… They were really joining hands and jumping off a cliff together.”

Will that change now that the Congressional Budget Office has released its “scoring” of the American Health Care Act? Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the report that showed a reduction in the budget deficit of $337 billion by 2026, but Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price had said, “We don’t believe that individuals will lose coverage at all.” The CBO found that 24 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026 under the Republican proposal than under current law. In addition, premiums would be 15 to 20 percent higher in the first year — though premiums would be expected to go down over time — and the government would provide less money to people to offset the cost of private insurance.

Here’s the Washington Post on how that shapes the political discussion:

The 37-page report provides the most tangible evidence to date of the human and fiscal impact of the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. It also undermines President Trump’s pledge that no Americans would lose coverage under a Republican remake of the Affordable Care Act.

The report’s arrival produced starkly different tacks from the White House and Capitol Hill — with top aides to the president immediately seeking to discredit it while the House’s Republican leaders praised the report for reinforcing their argument that the plan curbs federal spending and gives Americans the freedom to be insured or not — their choice.

A lot of the cost savings comes from reductions in Medicaid spending, an aspect of the bill that Rep. Mike Coffman has praised as “major entitlement reform” but that has raised concerns with some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. A spokesman for Coffman said Monday that he’s reviewing the CBO report carefully.

The loss of health insurance coverage predicted by the CBO is worse than the worst estimates DeGette was citing from policy think tanks earlier Monday.

“I think once Americans see what’s really in this bill, they’re going to react in a very negative way,” she said, calling the bill “devastating for working families in America.”

DeGette acknowledged that there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, including not enough competition on the exchanges as insurers withdraw from certain markets and people paying high premiums for high-deductible plans.

“We’ve begged them to work with us to fix some of these problems, which we admit are there,” she said of Republicans. “Medicare was approved in the 1960s, and we’re still improving it. No law is perfect the first time you pass it.”

But Republicans made repeal of Obamacare a line in the sand, and that’s a line in the sand for Democrats too, she said.

“What the Democrats have told our colleagues on the other side of the aisle is, if you insist on repealing the Affordable Care Act, we’re not going to help you do that,” she said. “But if you want to get real with us and sit down with us and actually talk about what to do, then we have a lot of great ideas.”