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Dennis Ross: Dispelling the myths — real facts about the AHCA

Beyond any measure, the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” has failed in its promises to the American people.

As it stands, Obamacare is in a death spiral and collapsing under its own weight of broken assurances, imperiling tens of thousands of Floridians with ever-increasing premiums and fewer and fewer choices for their medical needs. Here are the undisputed facts about Obamacare:

– It was sold to the American people based on broken promises.

– People did not get to keep their doctors if they liked them.

4.7 million Americans have been kicked off their health care plans.

– Nearly 20 million Americans remain uninsured today.

– It increased taxes on Americans by $1 trillion.

– Deductibles will average more than $6,000 this year, and premiums have risen by 25 percent.

– More than one-third of all U.S. counties have only one insurance provider.

– In Florida, premiums are expected to increase by 19 percent this year.

49 out of 67 Florida counties are estimated to have only one insurance provider this year.

300,000 Floridians had their plans canceled under Obamacare.

– The Congressional Budget Office incorrectly estimated 22 million people would flock to Obamacare.

– Insurance providers are fleeing the exchange left and right, with Aetna announcing it will completely leave the exchange by 2018.

– Leading Democrats, like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have admitted Obamacare was a mistake and has left Americans with less coverage.

Faced with these failures, doing nothing and watching more and more Americans be forced to pay higher premiums with unaffordable deductibles was not an option. The only responsible path forward was to repeal and replace the failures and broken promises of Obamacare.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that I voted for and passed in the House does just that:

– It establishes a health care system built upon free-market and consumer-driven principles that will revive competition, increasing quality, drive down costs and expand coverage.

– Cuts $1 trillion in burdensome Obamacare taxes.

– Congressional Members and staff are not exempt from the AHCA. The McSally Amendment made sure this legislation applies equally to everyone.

– Those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. I have a pre-existing condition with my congenital heart defect, and I understand how important it is to maintain coverage for others.

– Low-income Americans are not losing coverage and will still receive coverage under Medicaid.

– The AHCA modernizes and strengthens Medicaid with the biggest entitlement reform in a generation.

– It honors the enhanced state match that beneficiaries have been receiving.

– Restores $79 billion to hospitals who provide a high proportion of care to the most vulnerable patients, including certain Medicaid and Medicare recipients.

– Establishes the Patient and State Stability Fund that provides $130 billion to help states lower the cost of care for patients in need.

– Sets aside $100 billion for states to help low-income Americans access affordable health care.

– President Donald Trump has agreed to give Florida hospitals $1.5 billion to help treat the poor and uninsured.

No changes were made to the benefits Medicare provides in its current form, and the elderly will not lose or face more expensive coverage under the AHCA.

– Children up to 26 years old can stay on their parents’ plans.

– The AHCA substantially lowers premiums and eliminates the individual and employer mandates that are crushing small businesses and families.

– It provides tax credits and health savings accounts to help all Americans purchase affordable coverage, and ensures there is a seamless transition so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

Defunds Planned Parenthood by blocking more than $500 million of taxpayer money, and maintains the Hyde Amendment. This measure is supported by the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.

The AHCA is great a step in the right direction. After seven long years, we are finally putting patients first. We will continue working with the Trump Administration to further stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices, and lower costs for all Americans and families. We will fulfill our promises to those who sent us to Washington to help and protect them. I urge the Senate to quickly take up and pass this important legislation so we can provide relief to Americans across Florida and the entire nation.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Republicans put up billboard targeting Stephanie Murphy

The Republican National Congressional Committee is targeting Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy‘s Affordable Care Act support with a billboard in her hometown of Winter Park.

The digital billboard message has gone up on Fairbanks Avenue, diagonally facing both westbound Fairbanks traffic and eastbound [really northbound at that point] I-4 traffic, including those coming down the off-ramp at one of the most traffic-congested points in all of Central Florida.

“Tell Stephanie Murphy No To ObamaCare! No to Single-Health Care!” the billboard reads, with a picture of the freshman Congressional District 7 congresswoman. It then provides her office number.

“Stephanie Murphy supports ObamaCare, yet her constituents are suffering under it,” NRCC Spokesperson Maddie Anderson stated in a press release from the organization. “The voters of Florida’s 7th Congressional District need to know that their representative is a supporter of the failed law, and is doing nothing to fix the problems they are experiencing because of it.”

“Now, the Democrats are moving even further left to a push for single payer,” Anderson continued. “Murphy’s constituents should make sure she is not in favor of implementing this radical, costly, and sure to fail system.”

Despite AHCA punt, Rick Scott and Lenny Curry want to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare

The biggest political setback for the Donald Trump administration, thus far: the failure to get the American Health Care Act even to the House floor.

The administration’s attempts to message its health care reform legislation were short-lived.

However, one of the key theaters in that effort was Jacksonville, where VP Mike Pence, Gov. Rick Scott, and Mayor Lenny Curry messaged on the perceived failings of Obamacare.

Scott and Curry spent political capital on the effort: Scott especially, as he helped the Trump administration figure out its approach to health care reform, though Curry, as a local mayor, irked half the city by messaging on this national issue.

Appearing together in front of live microphones for the first time since that effort, we asked the governor and the mayor both about their feelings on the aborted health care legislation.

_______

 Our first question: did the Trump administration waste their time?

Scott sighed before responding, but hewed to familiar talking points.

“I’m going to continue to fight to make sure people have access to health care. Here’s what we know: we know that when health care costs go up, it impacts access. Either you can’t pay for it, your employer can’t pay for it, or the government can’t pay for it.”

“President Trump inherited an absolute mess. Obamacare’s spiraling out of control, and President Obama left in the nick of time,” Scott said. “We’ve got to find a way to drive down costs. I’m going to keep working … with the President, the Vice-President, the Congress, a friend of mine — HHS Secretary Tom Price  — to come up with a plan that’s good for everybody.”

“We want everybody in the state to have access to good health care,” Scott emphasized.

Curry, meanwhile, “wanted to echo what the governor said. The message was ‘repeal Obamacare.’ The message remains to those Republicans in Washington: ‘repeal Obamacare’.”

_____

Of course, there are existential questions about what that repeal may look like, as President Trump appears to have pivoted.

Meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators in Washington, Trump vowed to to “make a deal on health care … I have no doubt that that’s going to happen very quickly.”

We asked Scott if Trump was in danger of selling out the GOP base on this issue.

“Here’s what’s important to me,” the governor said. “We’ve got to come up with a way for people to have access to health care. If you can’t afford it, you don’t have access. My goal is come up with something that gives people good access to health care.”

“I’ve spent a good amount of time with President Trump. I know he listens. And my hope is that we can come up with something that all Americans can embrace.

How Mike Pence wasted Jacksonville’s time

As VP Mike Pence prepared to come to Jacksonville last Saturday to sell the American Health Care Act to Florida, some of the best members of the media dreaded it.

A TV person’s reaction: “Oh, God, I hope I don’t get called in.”

A print guy’s take: “I hate watching these politician events.”

In the end, neither of them were there. Nor were any of the real agenda setters in the local press. The local press turnout was sparse. The national correspondents were no-names. It turned out, a week later, all that was a bad sign.

Also a bad sign: the facility where the event was held — an envelope manufacturing plant — had the virtues and drawbacks of a secure warehouse setting.

The principle virtue: fencing and police at the perimeter of the building and blocks away controlling ingress and egress managed to keep the protesters away — a determined band of Democratic/Progressive activists kept, for the most part, out of the media’s line of sight.

The drawbacks were myriad.

One such drawback: no restrooms for the public. While there were portalets, there was no hand washing station. Politicians and the kind of party volunteers who made the apparently contested invite list love to shake hands. With those grins and grips on Saturday, they shared more than bonhomie.

Another such drawback: security’s key interest was in keeping the media in the pen.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s 2017 and the media are the most dishonest people in the world, except for Infowars and Russia Today and Fox and Friends, of course. But the people tasked with publicizing the event spent the whole time being watched.

We were forbidden to leave the pen after about 12:30. For me, a local guy who knew half the room, that precluded me from the kind of conversations I would have had with certain people in any other milieu.

However, the audience could come in the pen. This led to people approaching more than one female TV reporter and striking up conversations that weren’t of mutual interest.

So, beyond not getting the publicity the VP would have wanted, and beyond the ham-handed logistics of the event, what else went wrong?

The waste of political capital of local and state pols who made the trek.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

LOL.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry got a warm reception from the same folks who sent him hate mail over not vetoing the HRO, but his words now look pretty hollow given the inaction of the House, which couldn’t get repeal and replace done when given a free kick on goal during what passes for the president’s “honeymoon period.”

Rep. John Rutherford may have enjoyed watching March Madness with the VP on the plane to Jacksonville, but he ended up at the periphery of the debate otherwise.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t help himself much either.

How much time did Scott spend conferring with the Trump administration on health care in recent months? How does this Trumpian botch affect his Senate run next year?

Scott, the most prominent Obamacare critic of any state governor, spent his entire administration rejecting the Affordable Care Act.

Pence rewarded the governor’s messaging the day before in a press release and letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price. The VP vowed  to allow “states like Florida” the ability to have a block grant to administer their plans, and a “work requirement” for coverage.

“State solutions,” Pence said, are the best way forward for Florida.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

So, here’s what happened in Jacksonville. The VP decided to make his stand here, giving Rutherford a platform because neighboring Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis weren’t feeling this bill. The governor came in and got his moment in the spotlight. And Mayor Curry made the stop before going on Spring Break.

All of them got a news cycle.

But what happens the next time they try to sell a Trump initiative?

Will they be as useful?

After his re-election, George W. Bush said “what good is political capital if you don’t use it.”

Then he wasted it and lost it for a solid decade, until he took up portraiture.

Can Donald Trump paint? And do we have to wait until 2027 to figure it out?

White House, in gamble, demands make-or-break health vote

Abandoning negotiations, President Donald Trump demanded a make-or-break vote on health care legislation in the House, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if Friday’s vote fails.

The risky move, part gamble and part threat, was presented to GOP lawmakers behind closed doors Thursday night after a long and intense day that saw a planned vote on the health care bill scrapped as the legislation remained short of votes amid cascading negotiations among conservative lawmakers, moderates and others.

At the end of it the president had had enough and was ready to vote and move on, whatever the result, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers.

“‘Negotiations are over, we’d like to vote tomorrow and let’s get this done for the American people.’ That was it,” Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said as he left the meeting, summarizing Mulvaney’s message to lawmakers.

“Let’s vote,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said as he walked out.

“For seven and a half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families, and tomorrow we’re proceeding,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said, then walked off without answering as reporters demanded to know whether the bill had the votes to pass.

The outcome of Friday’s vote was impossible to predict. Both conservative and moderate lawmakers had claimed the bill lacked votes after a long day of talks. But the White House appeared ready to gamble that the prospect of failing to repeal former President Barack Obama‘s health law, after seven years of promising to do exactly that, would force lawmakers into the “yes” column.

“It’s done tomorrow. Or ‘Obamacare’ stays,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a top Trump ally in the House.

Collins was among those predicting success Friday, but others didn’t hide their anxiety about the outcome.

Asked whether Republicans would be unified on Friday’s vote, freshman Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida said, “I sure hope so, or we’ll have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic caucus impeach Donald Trump in two years when we lose the majority.”

Thursday’s maneuvers added up to high drama on Capitol Hill, but Friday promised even more suspense with the prospect of leadership putting a major bill on the floor uncertain about whether it would pass or fail.

The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies.

The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.

In a concession to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, many of whose members have withheld support, the legislation would repeal requirements for insurers to cover “essential health benefits” such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment.

The drama unfolded seven years to the day after Obama signed his landmark law, an anniversary GOP leaders meant to celebrate with a vote to undo the divisive legislation. “Obamacare” gave birth to the tea party movement and helped Republicans win and keep control of Congress and then take the White House.

Instead, as GOP leaders were forced to delay the vote Thursday, C-SPAN filled up the time playing footage of Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.

“In the final analysis, this bill falls short,” GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state said in a statement Thursday as she became the latest rank-and-file Republican, normally loyal to leadership, to declare her opposition. “The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed,” she said, citing the unraveling of Medicaid.

In a danger sign for Republicans, a Quinnipiac University poll found that people disapprove of the GOP legislation by 56 percent to 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided. Trump’s handling of health care was viewed unfavorably by 6 in 10.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who as speaker was Obama’s crucial lieutenant in passing the Democratic bill in the first place, couldn’t resist a dig at the GOP disarray.

“You may be a great negotiator,” she said of Trump. “Rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

Obama declared in a statement that “America is stronger” because of the current law and said Democrats must make sure “any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans.” Trump tweeted to supporters, “Go with our plan! Call your Rep & let them know.”

Unlike Obama and Pelosi when they passed Obamacare, the Republicans had failed to build an outside constituency or coalition to support their bill. Instead, medical professionals, doctors and hospitals — major employers in some districts — as well as the AARP and other influential consumer groups were nearly unanimously opposed. So were outside conservative groups who argued the bill didn’t go far enough. The Chamber of Commerce was in favor.

Moderates were given pause by projections of 24 million Americans losing coverage in a decade and higher out-of-pocket costs for many low-income and older people, as predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In an updated analysis Thursday, the CBO said late changes to the bill meant to win over reluctant lawmakers would cut beneficial deficit reduction in half, while failing to cover more people.

And, House members were mindful that the bill, even if passed by the House, faces a tough climb in the Senate.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Al Lawson: GOP health care plan ‘smoke and mirrors’

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson made his feelings known on the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Spoiler: the Democrat from Florida’s 5th Congressional District stands in opposition, calling the Republican proposal “smoke and mirrors” in a Wednesday op-ed for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Lawson’s editorial distilled familiar Democratic talking points: “Tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans while burdening hard working families with higher health care costs … soaring new health care costs for our seniors and [a shortened] life of the Medicare Trust Fund, endangering seniors and disabled Americans who depend on Medicaid coverage.”

It also advances the Congressional Budget Office’s declaration that 24 million more people would be left uninsured by 2025 under the American Health Care Act — the bill in the House that is finding pushback both from Democrats and Republicans aligned with the Freedom Caucus.

“I will continue to fight to ensure Floridians with pre-existing conditions don’t have to worry about losing their health care, that young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26,” Lawson said.

Worth noting: VP Mike Pence told Jacksonville residents on Saturday that both of those points are open for negotiation, a position that seemingly mollifies neither the united bloc of Democrats nor restive Republicans in Congress.

Lawson’s editorial dropped the same day former VP Joe Biden visited Capitol Hill to rally Democratic opposition.

Democratic Senators: GOP ‘wealthcare’ will hit Floridians in pocketbooks

As the U.S. House prepares to vote this week on the American Health Care Act, Senate Democrats are messaging against the bill.

On Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dropped a new television ad and launched a digital campaign around a hashtag: #FightWealthcare.

From the DSCC press release:

“The campaign features the DSCC’s first television advertisement of the 2018 cycle, “The Price,” a spot highlighting the stark and crippling burden the Republican plan would put on middle-class families in Florida who would be forced to pay more as insurance costs skyrocket while insurance companies get a tax break.”

In a conversation Wednesday morning, DSCC Press Secretary David Bergstein framed the Florida effort as a “targeted TV and digital ad buy,” though during the call he lacked more specific details as to spend and markets.

DSCC Chairman and Sen. Chris Van Hollen noted, via the release, that “we will make sure that every single Republican Senate candidate running in Florida is held accountable for their party’s toxic anti-healthcare agenda.”

Among those likely GOP Senate candidates: Gov. Rick Scott, whose resistance to Medicaid expansion was a leit motif of the Obama years.

The themes of the ad campaign follow up on a memo pushed out by the DSCC last month.

“During the 2018 cycle there will be no rock that Republican Senate candidates can hide under to escape the GOP’s dangerous attack on American families,” the memo reads.

“As the 2018 campaign cycle continues, there will be nowhere for Republican Senates candidates to hide — and at every turn, Democrats will remind voters that the Republican Plan puts the rich, the powerful and the well-connected first, while hardworking Americans pay the price,” the memo concludes.

Dennis Ross: Obamacare a mistake; time to repeal, replace

This month marks seven long and daunting years since Obamacare was signed into the law.

Seven years of broken promises. Seven years of skyrocketing premiums and fewer options. Seven years of tax increases, mandates and penalties. Seven years of families and hard working Americans having to make the choice between putting food on the table, buying cost-prohibitive health insurance under Obamacare, or facing federal mandates and penalties.

This is no way for Americans to live, and we cannot let it continue. We must pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) so we can repeal the failures of Obamacare and replace them with a robust and vibrant health insurance market where people will have more freedom and flexibility to get the affordable plans they need and prefer.

Since its enactment, Obamacare has kicked 4.7 million Americans off of their health care plans and forced double-digit premium rate increases on families. Today, one-third of U.S. counties have only one insurance provider, and multiple insurers are pulling out of the federal exchanges because of the economic strain Obamacare has on our nation.

Even leading Democrats, like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have admitted Obamacare was a mistake and has left Americans with less coverage.

In Florida alone, premiums will increase by 19 percent this year, and nearly 72 percent of Florida counties have only one or two insurance providers to choose from on the exchange. This is not choice.

Instead of kicking Americans off of their plans, the AHCA will kick bureaucrats out of doctors’ offices and put patients back in charge of their own health care decisions. This patient-centered legislation will lower health care premiums by 10 percent, reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion, cap Medicaid spending for the first time, and provide $883 billion in tax relief for middle-income families and small businesses.

The AHCA further eliminates the individual and employer mandates that impose burdensome requirements on small businesses and families. It also reduces federal mandates and regulations that force health care plans to be filled with services people do not want and cannot afford. The AHCA will allow for a seamless transition that provides continuous coverage for those currently enrolled in the health care exchanges, while helping Americans purchase their own plans through tax credits and Health Savings Accounts so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

Through this legislation, we are also protecting families and the unborn by allowing children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health care plans, preventing health insurers from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and blocking abortion providers from receiving federal funds.

This a beginning, not an end. We are going through the proper regular order and transparent process with this proposal, and are open to suggestions and ideas, something President Obama and Democrats were unwilling to do when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in the middle of the night. The AHCA is the first of three necessary and needed phases to fully repeal and replace Obamacare. This first phase allows us to immediately get the ball rolling by taking full advantage of the budget reconciliation process that will avoid Senate Democrats’ attempt to filibuster a full repeal and replacement.

After phase one is accomplished, we will quickly move on to phase two, which includes administrative actions, notably by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, to stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices and lower costs. The third phase will then allow Congress to introduce and pass additional legislative policies, such as allowing Americans to purchase coverage across state lines, which by Senate rules cannot be included in the reconciliation bill in phase one. Each phase has a thoughtful and strategic purpose in order to accomplish our long-awaited goal.

If we do not act, this disastrous health care law will continue in its death spiral, hurting American families and businesses, and threatening the next generation. After seven years of the American people telling us that Obamacare is not working, and after seven years of Republicans telling them we will repeal and replace it, the time for action and to fulfill our promise is now. We cannot, and will not, let this opportunity slip through our fingers. We must unite and put American patients first.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Donald Trump to Capitol in last-ditch lobbying for health care bill

President Donald Trump is rallying support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers at the Capitol, two days before the House plans a climactic vote that poses an important early test for his presidency. Top House Republicans unveiled revisions to their bill in hopes of nailing down support.

At a rally Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump underscored what he called “the crucial House vote.”

“This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare,” he said of repealing former President Barack Obama‘s landmark law, a GOP goal since its 2010 enactment. “We’re going to do it.”

 Trump’s closed-door meeting with House Republicans was coming as party leaders released 43 pages worth of changes to a bill whose prospects remain dicey. Their proposals were largely aimed at addressing dissent that their measure would leave many older people with higher costs.

Included was an unusual approach: language paving the way for the Senate, if it chooses, to make the bill’s tax credit more generous for people age 50-64. Details in the documents released were initially unclear, but one GOP lawmaker and an aide said the plan sets aside $85 billion over 10 years for that purpose.

The leaders’ proposals would accelerate the repeal of tax increases Obama imposed on higher earners, the medical industry and others to this year instead of 2018. It would be easier for some people to deduct medical expenses from their taxes.

Older and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries would get larger benefits. But it would also curb future growth of the overall Medicaid program, which helps low earners afford medical coverage, and let states impose work requirements on some recipients. Additional states could not join the 31 that opted to expand Medicaid to more beneficiaries under Obama’s law, the Affordable Care Act.

In a bid to cement support from upstate New Yorkers, the revisions would also stop that state from passing on over $2 billion a year in Medicaid costs to counties. The change was pushed by Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s first congressional supporters. Local officials have complained the practice overburdens their budgets.

Republican support teetered last week when a nonpartisan congressional analysis projected the measure would strip 24 million people of coverage in a decade. The Congressional Budget Office also said the bill would cause huge out-of-pocket increases for many lower earners and people aged 50 to 64.

Democrats have opposed the GOP repeal effort. They tout Obama’s expansion of coverage to 20 million additional people and consumer-friendly coverage requirements it imposed on insurers, including abolishing annual and lifetime coverage limits and forcing them to insure seriously ill people.

The GOP bill would dismantle Obama’s requirements that most people buy policies and that larger companies cover workers. Federal subsidies based largely on peoples’ incomes and insurance premiums would end, and a Medicaid expansion to 11 million more low-income people would disappear.

The Republican legislation would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills based chiefly on age, and open-ended federal payments to help states cover Medicaid costs would be cut. Insurers could charge older consumers five times the premiums they charge younger people instead of Obama’s 3-1 limit, and would boost premiums 30 percent for those who let coverage lapse.

House approval would give the legislation much-needed momentum as it moves to the Senate, which Republicans control 52-48 but where five Republicans have expressed opposition. Trump used Monday’s trip to single out perhaps the measure’s most vociferous foe — Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul.

“He’s a good guy,” Trump said of one 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination. “And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do till this happens.”

Enactment of the health care bill would clear the way for Congress to move to revamping the tax code and other GOP priorities. Defeat would wound Trump two months into his administration and raise questions about his ability to win support from his own party moving forward.

Among the disgruntled were GOP lawmakers in the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, though the strength of their opposition was unclear. The group has seemed to have around 40 members, but that number may be lower now and some have expressed support or an open mind for the bill.

Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an outspoken opponent, said the group was not taking a formal position on the measure. That could indicate that a significant fraction of its members were not willing to vow “no” votes.

Meadows said he believes the House will reject the bill without major changes.

___

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Gus Bilirakis all in on GOP health care proposal

Gus Bilirakis is sticking to his guns.

After holding three town hall meetings earlier this year, the Tarpon Springs Republican congressman heard strong (and on occasion, impassioned) comments by some constituents urging him not support a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

But Bilirakis stayed consistently clear that he supported killing Obamacare.

So, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that he intends to support the House Republican health care plan when it comes up for a vote later this week.

“The American Health Care Act is the best answer to replace the unsustainable Affordable Care Act and put our nation’s health care system on a viable path,” he said in a statement released Monday. “It will lower premiums, save taxpayers billions of dollars, and give patients more options for care. I do believe more must be done within the bill to help Americans in their 50s and 60s with health care costs, and I recently brought these concerns to House leadership and committee members.”

In his heated town hall meetings held in New Port Richey, Oldsmar and Wesley Chapel, Bilirakis faced strong opposition for his support to repeal the ACA. He won media plaudits by standing the rhetorical line of fire from impassioned advocates for maintaining the current health care law.

But Bilirakis was steadfast in saying he would support a Republican health care alternative, once offered up. And he says he will fight for lower costs.

“Throughout this legislative process, which began in January, I’ve held three in-person town halls, a telephone town hall, a roundtable discussion and numerous one-on-one constituent meetings in my district,” he said.

“I consistently fought to make sure my constituents’ views are represented in the American Health Care Act, namely the need to lower costs, increase choices, protect those with pre-existing conditions, keep children on their parent’s insurance, and more,” Bilirakis added. “As the bill comes up for a vote in the House this week, I will continue these efforts to ensure we better assist the millions of Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare.”

The bill is on the schedule of the House of Representatives for a vote Thursday.

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