Chesco Congress members feeling heat on health care vote

At last count, Meehan, Costello and Smucker appear to be yes votes

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

The fate of a controversial health care reform bill may end up in the hands of local members of the U.S. Congress — as two of them were seen as being on the fence on the bill but now said to be leaning toward “yes” votes — as the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans scramble to get to 216 votes for a vote Thursday on the American Health Care Act.

Although at this writing it appears that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-16) is a solid yes vote, there were some indications earlier in the week that the vote of both Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6) and Rep. Pat Meehan (R-7) remained in question — both appeared to be waiting for the final version of the bill to emerge from the House Rules Committee, Wednesday, sources in both office confirmed. But as of Wednesday morning, neither appeared in numerous media “whip” counts as being in the no or “leaning no” camp, but there was no official statement from either on their voting plans as House GOP leaders and the White House worked both to tweak the bill and horse trade with members for their support at the 11th hour.

A Meehan spokesman, John Elizando, said early in the week that the Congressman was waiting to see the final version of the bill before expressing a final opinion on it. Meehan did vote yes on portions of the bill in the Ways and Means Committee, but not the entire package, he noted.

Costello, too, appeared to have some reservations — especially after the negative headlines generated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that as many as 24 million people could lose healthcare — estimates that some have argued are overblown — and as well concerns about the impact of the bill on health insurance pricing on older folks.

Both are under pressure from house leadership — and at least one high profile Political Action Committee, the American Action Network, a center-right group said to have ties to GOP Congressional leadership and which emerged as a power player in the Congressional elections of the 2010 election cycle. Additionally, President Donald Trump appeared to indicate Tuesday in a closed-door meeting with the Republican Conference that he might support primary challenges to members who vote against the bill.

Costello has been under attack from liberal PACs as well — ads from Working Americans for Affordable Health Care have pushed on him to vote no.

As of Wednesday morning, the estimates on “no” votes in the GOP conference ranged from 26 to 29 — with 21 needed to defeat the bill, with many of the “no” votes coming from the conservative Freedom Caucus. That sets up what might be seen as the worst case scenario for local members of Congress: being on the record with a “yes” vote on a bill that failed, potentially angering both those who opposed the bill and those expecting a GOP Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — during this session.

The legislation, though, has seen criticism from the right for its extension of Medicaid through 2020 (a provision that may change before Thursday’s vote) as well as criticism from Republican moderates who fear too many people will lose insurance or be entirely priced out of the market — and additional concerns that smaller hospitals would again have to foot the cost of health care for the working poor and be forced to close.

Another concern: according to the CBO estimate, more people will lose health care with the bill’s provisions than would do so with just a repeal of the ACA — about one million more, the CBO estimate said. It is unclear what the changes in the bill that appear to have happened this week will have on that estimate, as there isn’t expected to be a revised CBO scoring of the bill before Thursday’s vote.

The fate of the bill in the U.S. Senate appears even less certain as a number of GOP Senators — both conservatives and moderates — have come out against it.

Smucker, a freshman, has been the most vocal in supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and passing its replacement, the AHCA, issuing a statement on it earlier this month:

“Obamacare has failed the American people,” Smucker said. “In 2010, supporters of the health care law said costs would go down. Instead, families and individuals across Pennsylvania face skyrocketing premiums and deductibles they simply cannot afford. They have been forced off their plans and forced to find new doctors. It’s time for change.

“While more work needs to be done, the American Health Care Act is a good start to ensuring Pennsylvanians will have access to the care they need at a price they can afford. I will work with my colleagues in the House to advance this critical legislation, and will fight for a stable transition to a better system for everyone.”

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