Thompson explains his GOP health care bill vote

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, voted yes on GOP health care bill.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, voted yes on GOP health care bill. Centre Daily Times, file

In a 217-213 vote, the Republicans’ health care bill passed the House on Thursday.

It was by a narrow margin though, getting only one more vote than it needed. Next, it goes to the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, was among the yes votes.

“I voted in favor of repealing and replacing Obamacare and to advance a bill that aims to create a health care system that works for all Americans,” Thompson said in a statement. “Obamacare has been failing with one in three counties in the country now only having access to one insurance provider, out of control premiums and limited choices for consumers.”

Thompson worked as a health care professional for almost 30 years. Now, he represents the largest geographical district in Pennsylvania — the 5th Congressional District.

Pam Short estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 people in Thompson’s district, between losing Medicaid and losing private insurance, could be uninsured as a result of the American Health Care Act.

“I really think it’s fair to characterize it as taking away coverage from a lot of people to cut taxes for rich taxpayers and corporations, so I think it’s a really sad day,” said Short, a retired health policy professor who directed Penn State’s Center for Health Care and Policy Research for more than 15 years. “... I hope it doesn’t become a reality.”

The health care industry is the second largest employer in Thompson’s district, Short said. And new money brought in from the Affordable Care Act allowed hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies to hire more people.

“The American Health Care Act aims to bring lower costs, increase choice and provide assurances to those with pre-existing conditions that they will be able to maintain coverage,” Thompson said.

Short said she thinks the best thing about the AHCA is that some people will see their premiums go down.

In the ACA, people who make above 400 percent of the poverty line don’t get any help with their premiums, she said. Under the AHCA, people at higher income levels would get subsidies.

The subsidies in the Republican health plan aren’t as generous for the most vulnerable people, though, Short said.

The AHCA is going to fundamentally change Medicaid and slow the growth of federal funding for everyone covered by the program, Short said.

For people with pre-existing health conditions, it will depend on whether they can afford to maintain continuous coverage and how the politics go in the state where they live, Short said.

In addition, Short said, there are tax cuts for wealthy people and corporations.

The ACA paid for itself — mostly through new taxes such as those on investment income of high-income taxpayers and businesses that were suddenly going to have a lot more customers, she said.

Short said all those taxes are repealed in the AHCA.

But, it’s a long process before the bill becomes law, she said.

Thompson said he’s optimistic it will continue through the legislative process and a health care reform bill will be delivered to the president’s desk.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz