Pelosi: New ObamaCare repeal bill is a ‘a very sad, deadly joke’

Pelosi: New ObamaCare repeal bill is a ‘a very sad, deadly joke’
© Greg Nash
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) teed off Wednesday on the House GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, saying the newly tweaked bill is no improvement on earlier versions that would erode insurance coverage and care for millions of Americans.
 
The additional $8 billion for high-risk pools, added Wednesday at the behest of Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), falls far short of funding needed to protect the millions of patients who would lose access to coverage because they have pre-existing conditions, Pelosi said.
 
“What you would need is probably about $200 billion over 10 years. What they’ve done is $8 billion over five years. If you divide that by the number of people who have a pre-existing medical condition, you get about [$200 or $300] a year,” Pelosi said during a press conference outside her office in the Capitol.
 
“It’s a joke. It’s a very sad, deadly joke.”
 
Pelosi accused the Republicans of trying to jam a repeal-and-replace bill through Congress not for health-related reasons, but to set the stage for a tax reform proposal providing hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts for the rich.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
“They’re in a hurry … because they need this money to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in our country. This bill will have the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of our country — Robin Hood in reverse,” she said.
 
“That is the goal of their tax bill, but they need this money from your healthcare in order to do that.”
 
President Trump and GOP leaders are scrambling to find the Republican support to pass a repeal-and-replace bill through the House. Republicans have been promising to dismantle former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Russian social media is the modern-day Trojan horse Trump records robo-call for Gillespie: He'll help 'make America great again' MORE’s signature healthcare law since it was enacted in 2010, but Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.), despite a 45-seat advantage, has failed twice this year to rally the GOP votes to move the proposal through the lower chamber. 
 
The foundering has been an embarrassing setback for the Republicans, one that’s stalled Trump’s ambitious legislative agenda and led the White House to intensify the pressure on GOP leaders to tweak the proposal in search of the balanced language that can attract the 216 votes, a simple majority, needed for passage. 
 
With the House scheduled to begin an 11-day break on Thursday, Republicans are in a full-court press to find the votes this week and tally a big legislative win before the year gets away from them.
 
The latest iteration of that effort emerged Wednesday morning, when Upton and Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) said they’d support the proposal with the additional $8 billion for high-risk pools over five years — a slight increase over the $130 billion over 10 years already in the GOP bill.
 
The pools are designed to protect patients who can no longer afford coverage in states granted waivers to eliminate certain ObamaCare protections, particularly a prohibition on charging more to those who are already sick or have pre-existing conditions.
 
Upton and Long had initially opposed the revised bill, citing concerns that those with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage. They announced their new position at the White House, after meeting with Trump.
 
“I think it is likely now to pass the House,” Upton said.
 
Pelosi on Wednesday accused Upton of merely pretending to oppose the initial GOP bill. The Michigan Republican, as former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, had long championed the Republicans’ efforts to repeal ObamaCare in full without any protections for those with a history of health problems.
 
“With all due respect to the work of Mr. Upton, he’s always been a yes,” Pelosi said. “People will say, ‘I’m a no. OK, give me some fake reason why I should be a yes and I’ll make it look like the bill is better.’ 
 
“Mr. Upton’s always been a yes.”
 
Pelosi said she’s not heard from Ryan about the possibility of a vote this week. Every Democrat is expected to oppose the measure if it ever hits the floor.
 
Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthTax reform sprint leaves little time for funding fight Democrats split over priorities for end-of-year battle House adopts Senate budget, takes step toward tax reform MORE (D-Ky.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, warned that not only is the $8 billion add-on insufficient, but the entire risk-pool concept is flawed. Prior to ObamaCare, he said, 35 states had high-risk pools, but they covered only 226,000 people combined. 
 
“Most all the states had high caps on annual and lifetime limits. The premiums were 150-200 percent of what the standard rate was in those areas. So the experience, by and large, has been terrible,” he said.
 
Yarmuth also emphasized that Democrats aren’t willing to trust conservative state legislators, like those in his home state of Kentucky, to protect low-income and other vulnerable patients under an ObamaCare waiver system. 
 
“All of this … state flexibility depends on state governors and legislatures that are compassionate,” Yarmuth said. 
 
“I have a governor who … wants to dismantle the whole system. So I’m certainly … not going to trust him to be willing to take care of that.”