Rep. Young votes for health care bill, says he won pledges for more

Protestors at the U.S. Capitol before a vote on the health care bill. Photo by Liz Ruskin.

A Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act squeaked through the U.S. House today, with help from Congressman Don Young.

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Protestors on the Capitol grounds chanted “Shame! Shame!” as lawmakers left the building.

Young said the vote was just one step toward the Republican goal of repealing the Obama health care law.

“The bill we passed today will not become law. It’ll be changed as time goes by,” he said. “But unless we move it, or move a vehicle, nothing’s going to happen, and that’s not good.”

Under the bill, Alaskans would lose the generous subsidies available now to help them buy plans on the individual market. Instead they’d get tax credits that don’t vary by location. That was also in a prior version the bill, in March, and Young said then it would be bad for Alaska.

Now, Young said there are more funds in the bill for high-cost states. And he said House Speaker Paul Ryan and others promised him Alaska will get more help.

“I know we have the money, about $19 billion, that can be disbursed,” Young said. “I’ve talked to the (Health and Human Services) secretary, Dr. Price, and he ensures me we will be made whole, if it becomes law.”

Also, Young told reporters his vote for the Speaker’s priority bill makes him more effective on other matters.

“You have to have the assurance and the backing of the leadership or your bills don’t move. And Alaska has a lot of things on the plate, and I think we’re in a better position to get legislation done for Alaska after the vote today than I was before,” Young said. “And if you can’t figure that out, shame on you.”

The bill goes next to the Senate.

While Young said it includes protection for people with pre-existing conditions, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Wednesday the House is undermining the Affordable Care Act on that, the law’s most popular feature. To overcome objections, Murkowski said, the House seems to be creating more pots of money.

“What I have seen, that causes me a little worry is the reports that (say) ‘Well, OK, We put this fund over here and it was a $15 billion fund. And now we’re going to put this fund over here, and it’s going to be an $8 billion fund,'” Murkowski said. “Are we building the right policy? Or are we just putting enough funds out there to give people comfort that, ‘OK maybe my state can tap into it.’”

Governor Bill Walker issued a statement after the House vote saying Alaska would be the state most harmed if the bill is signed into law.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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