Update: After remaining silent about the Congressional Budget Office’s report that estimates 24 million fewer people would be insured under the Republican House health-care plan, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s office released a statement late Wednesday afternoon defending the proposal.
Reichert had been mum on the CBO report despite multiple requests for comment. The statement came after The Seattle Times posted an online story about his silence.
The statement says the CBO estimates the plan will “reduce premiums on families, increase health care options, cuts taxes, and decrease the deficit by $337 billion.”
It continues: “It is assumed in the report that when individuals and families are no longer forced to sign up for insurance fewer will choose to do so. It’s not the government’s job to force Americans to buy something they do not want and can’t afford to use. Instead of penalizing people for not purchasing insurance they do not want and that does not meet their health care needs, our plan lowers costs and allows individuals to choose the right plan for them. And according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, a majority of Washington patients will receive a larger tax credit under the Republican plan than under Obamacare.
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“The American Health Care Act is just the first step in our plan to provide Americans with more affordable, patient-centered health care. The CBO’s score does not include the additional steps that are critical to our overall health care solution. Our goal remains to provide access for all Americans. Through work with the Administration and additional reforms, we will continue to increase competition to provide more choices and lower costs for families.”
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert recently promised that the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act would not toss anyone off health insurance.
“No one is gonna lose coverage. Let me just make that clear again. No one will lose coverage,” Reichert said during a Feb. 23 interview with KCTS-9’s Enrique Cerna.
But he’s remained silent since the Congressional Budget Office issued a report projecting 14 million fewer people would have health coverage next near — growing to 24 million by 2026 — under the House Republican legislation known as the American Health Care Act. The CBO also predicted the law would reduce federal budget deficits by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026.
The CBO report, released Monday, has spurred new controversy over the GOP plan. Some supporters of the plan have pushed back, arguing the CBO didn’t paint a complete picture.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, went on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show to defend the GOP proposal following the CBO report. “It is an indicator. It is something we take very seriously,” McMorris Rodgers said. But, she added, “The CBO score isn’t telling the whole story,” citing future cuts to regulations that Republicans argue will increase choices in the insurance marketplace.
Reichert, who represents Washington’s 8th Congressional District, has remained mum, declining so far to comment on the CBO numbers despite multiple requests. The former King County sheriff also has refused to attend town halls, and has been hounded by protests organized by Democratic activists eager to challenge him on the health care plan. (He has scheduled a telephone town hall for Thursday at 5:30 p.m., according to a Facebook post.)
It was in lieu of hosting a public town hall that Reichert did the Feb. 23 KCTS-9 interview in which he vowed the GOP health care plan would not cost anyone their insurance.
“I will not support a health care bill that does not include replacement. And so when we talk about — in our office, when we talk about health care, we’re talking about repeal and replace. And it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen,” Reichert said during that interview.
In the past, Reichert himself has cited CBO reports that backed proposals he favored. For example, in a 2013 news release, he cited CBO research suggesting federal welfare programs were creating disincentives for poor families to get jobs.
Reichert was among the House Republicans who voted to pass the GOP health plan out of the House Ways and Means Committee last week.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, the other Washington representative on the panel, voted against advancing the bill, which would defang the Affordable Care Act’s central requirement that everyone buy health insurance by repealing tax fines on those who don’t. The proposal also would replace income-based health subsidies with tax credits based on age, and would charge higher premiums for those who drop coverage for more than two months.
“While some may use ‘alternative facts,’ my constituents and I live in reality. And there is no denying that the CBO score confirms this is a dangerous and irresponsible bill that threatens to destabilize our nation’s health care system, rob millions of Americans of their health insurance and raise costs for middle-class families, seniors, women and people with disabilities,” DelBene said in a statement after the CBO report was released.
In Washington state, the proposal could cause hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers to lose coverage they gained under the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, unless the state were to come up with $1.3 billion a year in cuts or taxes to preserve it, according to state officials.