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GOP health care bill receives support from Rowan’s congressmen

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s congressmen joined the majority on Thursday when the U.S. House passed a Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Reps. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, and Ted Budd, R-Advance, voted in favor of the American Health Care Act with 215 other Republicans. Hudson has supported the bill from its first introduction months ago. Budd had opposed it until recently.

The final vote count, mostly along party lines, was 217 in favor and 213 opposed.

In an emailed statement about his vote, Budd, who represents the 13th District, said Obamacare’s failure can be seen through double-digit premium increases and a “monopoly situation” for health care in North Carolina. Thursday’s vote marks the end of the Affordable Care Act, Budd said — though the bill must still be passed by the Senate.

“Ultimately, the legislative process is a human process with all the flaws that entails,” he said. “The results of that process are never perfect, and this bill isn’t either. What I believe it will do is significantly reduce insurance premiums in our state and help put the individual insurance marketplace on a more sound financial footing. This day has been a long time coming, and its cause lies in the determination of millions of Americans to reclaim power over their health care from the federal government.”

In March, when the bill was pulled from consideration because of a lack of votes, Budd said he would fight for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. At the time, Budd said he was glad to see the bill pulled.

Like Budd, Hudson said the GOP plan isn’t a perfect bill. But Hudson, who represents the 8th District, said it represents the most significant entitlement reform in a generation, eliminates tax penalties for people without health care coverage and maintains protections for pre-existing conditions.

“As a conservative, I believe in the principles of limited government, free markets, liberty and personal responsibility,” Hudson said in an emailed statement. “To that end, I made a promise to my constituents that I’d fight to repeal and replace Obamacare with conservative health care reform that incorporates these principles and puts them first, and today I’m keeping my word. … This is the good, conservative health care reform I’ve fought for since my first days in office and the best chance to finally provide people relief from Obamacare’s broken promises.”

Thursday’s vote came before the Congressional Budget Office released an estimate about the effects of the revised bill. CBO estimates on the initial bill projected it would shave $337 billion off the federal deficit from 2017 to 2026. At the same time, tax revenue would be reduced because of tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, the CBO said.

Estimates on the initial bill also found that insurance premiums would increase in the short term and be 10 percent lower in 2026 than the same year under current law. At the same time, 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026, according to the initial CBO estimate.

The N.C. Democratic Party noted the potential for people to lose insurance coverage when it called Thursday’s vote a shameful betrayal of working families.

“While this legislation is appalling, it should surprise no one,” said party Chairman Wayne Goodwin in an emailed statement. “From his first day in office, President Trump has shown that he is squarely behind the congressional Republican agenda of more money for the rich at the expense of good health care, jobs and wages for the middle class.”

Meanwhile, state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said he is proud of the state’s congressmen who voted for the legislation.

“After putting in a great deal of time and energy, they were able to strengthen the bill to provide lower costs and more support for a sweeping majority of Americans that were cast hopeless by Obamacare,” Hayes said. “Our members have worked hard alongside President Trump to deliver a promise to the American people that will improve the lives of citizens not only in North Carolina, but around the entire country.”

The Rowan County Democratic Party Chairman Geoffrey Hoy said Budd and Hudson’s votes in favor of the bill are “morally reprehensible.”

“If Reps. Budd and Hudson were truly concerned about our health and lives, they would not have supported legislation that will result in thousands of people in Rowan County losing their health insurance, losing access to life-saving health care and facing dramatically increased insurance rates,” Hoy said in an emailed statement.

The bill will hurt a wide swath of people, he said.

The bill now heads to the Senate. If passed there, it would go to the president for his signature.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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