WASHINGTON – Minnesota’s three Republicans in Congress voted Thursday to repeal major elements of the Affordable Care Act, signing on to the bid by President Donald Trump and GOP leaders to scrap the law known as Obamacare.
U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis were among the 217 votes for what Republicans call the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Minnesota’s five U.S. House Democrats voted against it.
Paulsen and Emmer held their votes closely as House GOP leaders scrambled to gather the support needed to pass the measure. A wide range of health care organizations condemned the legislation, and Democrats vowed that many Republican House members would pay a political price for supporting a measure expected to roll back access to health insurance for millions of low-income individuals.
“This is just the latest step in reforming our health care system to be more patient-centered, and my focus remains on finding solutions that will make sure Americans have access to high quality, affordable healthcare,” Paulsen said in a prepared statement. He said “the status quo under Obamacare is no longer acceptable,” calling it responsible for “skyrocketing costs, diminishing choices, and limited access.”
Paulsen had the most at stake politically of Minnesota’s members of Congress. He represents a district that went for Hillary Clinton last November, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already preparing to go after his seat in 2018.
Paulsen noted that the bill included the permanent repeal of the medical device tax. He had long pushed to repeal the tax.
Emmer said the legislation would give more power to the states and move away from Washington and a one-size-fits-all policy. He said it would increase competition, expand access to health care and relieve tax burdens. “While the AHCA is not perfect, there are many areas it gets right,” he said in a statement. “This is what President Trump campaigned on and what he asked for, and the House has delivered.”
Lewis, elected last year, has been a consistently vocal supporter of the GOP’s efforts this year to repeal Obamacare.
“Last year, I promised the people of the Second District that I would promote real health care reform that works for their families,” Lewis said in a statement. “I kept that promise.”
All three GOP congressmen were unavailable for interviews beyond their statements.
The five Minnesota DFLers in Congress voted against the measure, and all released statements sharply criticizing it. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis said it would leave millions of working families without health coverage; Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul described it as an attack on children.
It’s not yet clear how the provisions of the ACHA will play out in states like Minnesota, which receives billions of federal dollars for health care programs. Shortly after the House vote, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton criticized the measure but said he and state legislative leaders will hold off on responding since the measure’s prospects are uncertain in the U.S. Senate.
“Saying they’re going to give us more flexibility but then half the money — that’s not a good bargain,” Dayton said.
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210