Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney helped her party pass a historic bill to unwind Obamacare, but its chances of passage in the Senate remain far from certain.
After House Republicans passed their bill to overturn Obamacare they walked out of the Capitol and were greeted with a few hundred protestors who were chanting shame.
But Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney was undeterred.
“It was great to get it done. It was nice that we had the votes and that we were able to do it and deliver, and I feel really proud that we were able to keep the promise and help rescue the American people from what has really been a failing system.”
Cheney also said the protests were less than they would be if the Affordable Care Act was a popular program.
“I’d say for something that is President Obama’s signature achievement this is a pretty small crowd. When you think about all of the mistruths that have been told about it, I don’t even know how many folks out there, but it’s certainly not as many as you would expect.”
Cheney says the bill is vital for states like Wyoming.
“I think it’s crucially important that we give people relief from Obamacare. It’s important first of all because the system is failing. And because people have got to get access to affordable care and in the current situation they just can’t, and particularly true in a place like Wyoming where the cost of care is high and we’re rural.”
But even many Republicans oppose the bill, which grants waivers to states and could allow them to deny women maternity care or to charge sick people more money. New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance opposed the bill and says it should have been bipartisan.
“I am opposed to the bill and I think the Democrats should come to the table on the issue of the exchanges which I think is an area that needs reform immediately.”
Exchanges are the marketplace where consumers purchase insurance. In Wyoming, residents have only one provider to choose from and many lawmakers say that shows that the system is broken. Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Ryan Costello says he couldn’t support the measure because he says it opens the door for the health secretary to undo Obamacare’s mandate that people with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage. States are allowed to ask for waivers to allow insurance companies to not protect those people.
“My principles have always been making sure we have affordable access for all Americans and I believe the pre-existing conditions protection should be without contingency, so it’s for those reasons.”
But Cheney denies that’s the case. She says protections for pre-existing conditions essentially remain.
“I just don’t think that’s true. If you look at the language of the underlying bill and the language of the amendments it’s very clear what the conditions under which states could get waivers. There’s no waiver of the prohibition against denying coverage, the issue has to do with the cost of coverage. And there are only limited circumstances and those have to do when people have been without coverage for six months and a state has to have its own pool in place to provide cost mitigation where people might be affected by that.”
Many rank and file Republicans were grumbling that party leaders and President Trump forced them to vote on an unpopular bill that may never see the light of day in the Senate. But Cheney says the effort had to start somewhere.
“Look – we’ll do our job over here and then we send it over they’re going to have to do their job over there.”
Other Republicans are mad that the latest version of the GOP bill was never analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office after numerous provisions were added at the last minute. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso is a leading voice on health reform and earlier this week he was still scrambling to figure out what was in the bill.
‘Well, I still want to see what’s in it – they’re adding some amendments. I asked for a copy today of what the amendment was and I still haven’t seen it yet,” said Barrasso.
Many Republican senators are now demanding major changes to the House bill, like fully funding Planned Parenthood and changing the pre-existing condition language. Still, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi Senate Republicans must get over their disagreements and pass a bill.
“Well, America is going to have to get over it because the system is going to implode on itself. There are too many things that make it a bad health insurance situation. There are a lot of people that don’t sign up until they get really sick. They don’t make any payments, they get fixed, and they drop out of the system as soon as they’re fixed. They never paid a dime, but got hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of care. A system can’t work like that.”
Enzi has no idea what that final product will look like.