WASHINGTON - Members of Congress representing North Dakota and Minnesota broke along partisan lines in their reactions to the report released this week forecasting the impact of a health care reform bill passed by Republicans in the U.S. House.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report, released Wednesday, May 24, estimated that the American Health Care Act passed May 4 would leave an additional 23 million without health insurance by 2026, compared to the existing law.
In a brief statement, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., the only member of Congress representing Fargo-Moorhead who cast a vote for the House Republican plan to replace the law commonly known as Obamacare, emphasized its financial savings. As written, the bill is expected to reduce the deficit by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026.
"The bill now goes to the Senate where they can get to work to ensure we fulfill our promise to the American people of repealing and replacing Obamacare," Cramer said in the statement.
Senate Republicans have said they will write their own bill, which U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., pointed out in a statement, calling the AHCA the "House of Representatives' health care legislation."
"We are writing our own health care bill in the Senate and I believe we need to focus on enhancing the refundable tax credits for low-income individuals, ensuring that reforms to Medicaid work for providers and those who rely on the program, and making sure that those with chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health coverage," said Hoeven, who added that Obamacare has "raised costs and limited health care choices."
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the CBO report confirms the "bill is just cruel and is bad for North Dakota." She said it would lead to more than 28,000 North Dakotans not having coverage and make coverage unaffordable for more than 300,000 in North Dakota with pre-existing conditions.
Heitkamp noted that savings created by the bill come largely from about $830 billion in cuts to Medicaid "while giving individuals making more than $200,000 a tax cut."
"That isn't right. In fact, it's downright mean," she said in her statement. "Those who voted for this bill should know better - it was a vote for their own self-interest, and certainly not one that stands up for the people of our country or North Dakota."
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said the report showed the bill is "a giant tax break for the wealthiest Americans masquerading as a health care bill."
"This Republican plan would rip coverage away from 23 million people, eliminate nationwide protections that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, drive up costs for seniors, put rural hospitals and nursing facilities at-risk of closure, limit access to providers, and jeopardize tens of thousands of health care jobs in Minnesota. And on top of that, the bill would fundamentally destroy Medicaid as we know it," he said in a statement.
In a tweet, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said that 23 million more uninsured people is "unacceptable."
Neither Klobuchar or U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., released a formal statement on the report. Peterson, who represents a large western Minnesota district that includes Moorhead, voted against the bill.