Himes: New health plan benefits those who don’t need help

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes meets with reporters Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes meets with reporters Tuesday.

Shortly after Republicans unveiled their replacement for the Affordable Care Act Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said the Obamacare replacement amounted to breaks for the wealthy and health care for the healthy.

“In the hour I’ve spent on what was proposed, it strikes me that this thing is a very big tax cut paid for by a scale-back of the Medicaid program. And it’s a cut for people making over $250,000 a year, it’s a tax cut for tanning salons, it’s a tax cut for pharmaceutical executives making $500,000 a year. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. It is a very significant cut in taxes, apparently paid for overtime by significant squeezing of the Medicaid system,” Himes said as he hosted a gathering of reporters in Stamford.

Medicaid provides health coverage for low-income families, and also provides nursing services to middle class families.

“If a family has an individual with Alzheimer’s and they burn through their assets, it’s Medicaid that picks up the slack,” Himes said, adding that “it looks like it’s going to benefit the people who are doing just fine at the expense of the people who are not doing fine.”

Himes pointed out that the primary issue with both the ACA and this bill has to do with costs.

“The huge elephant in the room on health care is how do we control costs over time. A lot of what we talked about with the ACA, and now it appears what we’re talking about is sort of “Who pays what?” he said.

Himes also addressed the idea that the bill would be “jammed through.”

“Also looks like it’s a violation of the president’s promise to increase coverage, which raises another issue. Seven years ago the Democrats were accused of ‘jamming the bill through.’ Somehow in jamming it through I had time to do 14 health care town hall meetings. It was weeks and weeks and months and months,” he said.

“This week we’re just going to study the bill. We’re all looking at it for the first time this 24 hours,” Himes said.

“Secondly, we’re going to see what the Republicans do. You’re already hearing a lot of criticism from the Republican study group, the more conservative Republicans. You’ve had a few, like Justin Amash [a Republican congressman representing part of Michigan], come out and say, ‘I’m not voting for it,’” he said.

Himes responded to a question by denying Republican claims that the Affordable Care Act initiated under former President Obama is on the verge of collapse.

“Well, Obamacare has a lot of parts to it. I guess in the aggregate I had about 3,000 people at my town hall meetings and a lot of them had stories. They had stories about having insurance coverage for the first time. There was a young woman who said without ACA I might die,” Himes said. “So when the Republicans say it’s collapsing, that it’s a total failure, they’re lying.”

Himes said now that the repeal and replacement process has begun, Republicans may be coming to see the positives to Obamacare.

“What’s a more accurate statement, and it’s something they’re coming to realize, is that it did a lot of good for a lot of people, 20 million, to be precise, who now have coverage.”

Himes said instead of saying, “You can’t touch it” or “It’s a total failure,” it should be acknowledged that it’s done some really good things.

“But it’s got some flaws,” Himes said, “and we need to come together to address those flaws.”