The Republican health care bill didn’t come to a vote last week, but some locals have kept asking one question.
How would U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, have voted?
The congressman for the largest geographical district in Pennsylvania, stretching from Erie in the west to Clinton County in the east, told the Centre Daily Times that he couldn’t vote for the bill the way it stood on March 17.
But leading up to the vote on March 24, different news outlets began publishing lists of the 435 congressional districts and where the representatives stood. For some, Thompson was listed in the “yes” column, prepared to support the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare replacement promised by President Donald Trump and being pushed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
The CDT has fielded a number of phone calls and emails since the bill failed to come to a vote on Friday with people wanting to know which was true.
The short answer? Both.
“People were trying to do whip counts through the week and had him in various columns,” said chief of staff Matthew Brennan, who acknowledged that Thompson’s position was changing throughout the negotiations.
Thompson’s original “no” was a response to two aspects of the AHCA that he couldn’t get behind — increases in premiums and funding shortfalls for long-term care — both of which would have hit older Pennsylvanians hard.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill, which would have dropped the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, would have also increased average premiums in the individual market by 15 to 20 percent in the first years. Although the CBO said that was temporary, it would have “disproportionately affected” those 55 to 64.
The following week was a roller coaster of changes. Brennan said two amendments to the bill swung Thompson to support the bill, but then another change pushed him back to opposition.
In the end, however, a late night change at 12:30 a.m. Friday would have won his vote if it had actually come to the floor.
Among the changes Thompson supported were: an additional $75 billion in premium assistance for that impacted demographic; more money for senior and disabled Medicaid enrollees; and allowing those with medical expenses more than 5.8 percent of adjusted gross income in a given year to deduct these costs from their taxes, a change from the 10 percent under the Affordable Care Act.
Brennan said those day-by-day switches weren’t being put out to reduce confusion.
“We didn’t want to send mixed signals,” he said. “Most vocal people have said bait-and-switch. No, this is really a process. There was a lot of legislative work in action.”