Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, isn’t shying away from the Obamacare repeal bill that the House passed last year, a stark contrast from some of his colleagues facing tough re-election races this fall.
Burgess said in a video released Wednesday that he hopes the Senate will take up the American Health Care Act, which the House passed in May 2017, in the lame duck session. But vulnerable Republicans are struggling to defend their votes for the bill, which several analyses said would have eroded protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“The Senate failed to pass our legislation or any legislation offering a better option for Americans,” said Burgess, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on health. “The Senate can still choose to take up the American Health Care Act and I hope that they will.”
It is extremely doubtful the Senate will take up the bill during the lame duck session that will occur after the midterm elections that take place on Nov. 6. The Senate abandoned the bill after the House passed it in May and subsequently failed to pass its own legislation.
Nevertheless, Burgess used the occasion to defend the House Republican bill from election-time attacks. The House bill has become a political albatross for some candidates who have struggled to respond to Democratic attacks that they do not support coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Burgess sought to respond to these attacks in the video. He said that a majority of Americans get coverage through their employer and that a separate federal law requires insurers in employer plans to cover pre-existing conditions.
“Forty years before Obamacare, employer-sponsored health insurance has protected Americans with pre-existing conditions,” he said.
But the American Health Care Act allowed states to get waivers that would have let insurers ignore protections for pre-existing conditions for people who did not maintain continuous coverage for more than 63 days.
The AHCA’s waiver process would have affected people on the individual market that offers coverage for people who don’t have insurance through a job or the government. Obamacare’s insurance exchanges are a part of the individual market.
The Congressional Budget Office said in its estimate of the bill that the waiver process would cause people with pre-existing conditions who lived in a state with a waiver to pay higher costs. Plans could become so expensive that it could imperil coverage for them, the nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper said.
Burgess does not reference the CBO estimate in his video, only saying that the bill would have prevented insurers from raising premiums on patients with pre-existing conditions “if the patient paid their premiums.”
He said there have been “false claims” that the AHCA would have affected all Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“This is in fact 100 percent wrong,” Burgess said. “Today 93 percent of Americans are covered through an employer or a program like Medicare or Medicaid, all of whom are protected for pre-existing conditions.”