- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Two of New Jersey’s five Republican congressmen voted Thursday for the GOP’s health bill, including one who opposed an earlier version.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen switched from a no to approve the measure, which Rep. Tom MacArthur led the effort to update after it didn’t come up for a vote last month. MacArthur also voted yes on the bill that has drawn universal opposition from Democrats and from those who say it will strip millions of their health insurance.

Reps. Leonard Lance, Chris Smith and Frank LoBiondo joined the state’s seven Democrats in the House in voting against the measure, which now heads to the Senate. It passed 217-213, with Lance, Smith and LoBiondo among 20 Republicans voting no.

“Obamacare is collapsing across the country and failing to make health care affordable for New Jersey families facing skyrocketing premiums, soaring deductibles, and fewer choices. So doing nothing is not an option!” Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “I voted to move this bill to the U.S. Senate, which will have the opportunity to improve this legislation significantly.”

He said the legislation protects those with pre-existing conditions, but the measure allows states to seek waivers that would allow insurers to charge those with pre-existing conditions more.

MacArthur, who devised the plan for the waivers, was one of the Republican lawmakers to speak from the Rose Garden at an event with President Donald Trump after the vote.

“I have said from the beginning of this long process that this has to be about people, not about politics,” he said.

MacArthur has said that his only goal was helping the individual health insurance markets survive.

Lance noted in a statement that he ran for re-election last year in support of repealing the Affordable Care Act with a plan that lowers premiums, drives down costs and gives every American access to affordable insurance, but that the House bill doesn’t do that.

“I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare and will work with my colleagues across the Capitol to pass a better bill, one that lowers costs, improves access and increases quality of life for hard working New Jersey families,” he said.

The bill would eliminate tax penalties under Obama’s law, which has clamped down on people who don’t buy coverage, and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance - largely based on people’s incomes and premium costs - into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.

The measure would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

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