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Passage Of Republican Health Care Bill Divides Northwest Delegation


House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. walks to the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. walks to the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Andrew Harnik/AP

House Republicans muscled through their rewrite of the nation’s health care laws Thursday over the united opposition of Democrats. 

The bill was passed on a 217-213 vote and sent to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.

Oregonians with pre-existing conditions won’t lose health coverage under the bill, according to Oregon’s only Republican congressman, Greg Walden. Walden has been instrumental in crafting the bill. He defended several aspects of the bill on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.  

“We are protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Those conditions continue to be protected,” Walden said.

Walden had pledged in town halls in Oregon to protect pre-existing conditions — and some advocates have said the latest version of the health care bill breaks that promise.

Walden also said the combination of funding, waivers and risk pools should reassure Americans.

“To add another layer of a safety net, we add $8 billion in here,” Walden said. “Remember, this would only apply in states that seek a waiver and get it. They have to have a risk pool behind anything they do. And we have this guarantee in place that they will be covered – and remember, if you have continuous health care coverage, you are fine.”

Oregon’s other four members of Congress – all Democrats – joined a united front against the bill.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici spoke against the bill from the House floor earlier Thursday.

“My constituents are scared – and so are people across this country,” she said.

Bonamici used the example of a woman named “Arden” from Gearhart, Oregon, she described as “distraught” about possibly losing health coverage.

“Arden took the loving step of adopting a child with special needs,” Bonamici said. “Now the support program they rely on is at risk of being terminated by this bill.”

Their leader in the House, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi has called the GOP bill a “moral monstrosity.”

Southwest Washington Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler voted against the first health care bill in March. She voted “no” on the version that passed Thursday, too.

The bill’s passage in the House sets up a debate in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate. Oregon’s junior Sen. Jeff Merkley gave the bill dismal odds to pass that chamber.

 “That Act is deader than dead,” Merkley predicted on a conference call with reporters before the House vote. “I can tell you my Republican colleagues are hoping that the House somehow fails to send it over. They do not want to have to vote on a bill that cuts health care for 24 million Americans.”

Merkley said the bill breaks President Trump’s promises to maintain coverage.

Walden was pressed on those issues during his appearance on MSNBC. He pointed out that the health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act are having problems, with some states down to a single provider.  

“We’re trying to move this forward to get to a place where insurers will come back into the markets, I think you’ll see premiums come down and Americans will have more choices in the individual markets than they have today,” said Walden.

“This bill is a staggering reversal of Republican health care promises that has been rammed through the House by buying off members and brazenly misleading the public,” said Oregon’s senior senator Ron Wyden in a statement. “Bottom line, the House has voted to turn back the clock to the days when health care was reserved for the healthy and wealthy.”

Walden was among the Republican leaders to meet with Trump this week about the health care proposal.

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