- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - All of Wisconsin’s congressional Republicans voted Thursday for legislation rolling back former President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying the reforms are a disaster and Americans deserve better.

The House voted to pass the bill 217-213 on Thursday afternoon, sending the measure to the Senate. Wisconsin’s Republican representatives - House Speaker Paul Ryan, Jim Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman, Sean Duffy and Mike Gallagher - all voted in favor of the legislation.

“The House passage of the American Health Care Act is an important first step in fulfilling the promise to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare - a collapsing law that has failed millions of American businesses and families,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “This bill is a free-market solution that works for the people, not the government.”

All of them except Gallagher had said they would vote for a plan Republicans introduced earlier this spring to replace Obama’s changes. Gallagher never publicly announced his position on that bill. Ryan initially couldn’t muster enough votes to pass that legislation and the GOP ultimately pulled the proposal from the House floor in March in an embarrassing defeat for both Ryan and President Donald Trump. That was all but forgotten on Thursday as Republicans celebrated the new bill’s passage.

“I voted for the new health care bill because the current system is unstainable,” Grothman said in a statement. “Quite simply, Americans deserve better.”

Wisconsin’s three Democrats, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, all voted against the bill. Kind issued a statement lamenting that no cost estimates were completed before the vote and warned that 24 million people could lose coverage, citing a figure from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

“Never before in our nation’s history has a Congress and Administration offered a health care reform bill that instead of lowering the uninsured rate actually increases the number of uninsured individuals by 24 million people,” Kind said.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, said she won’t vote for the bill if it comes to the Senate unchanged.

“The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people’s health care away. I will not support higher costs, fewer people with health care coverage and more economic insecurity for Wisconsin families,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Wisconsin’s other senator is Republican Ron Johnson. A message left at his Washington, D.C., office inquiring about whether he supports the bill wasn’t immediately returned.

The bill ends tax penalties Obama’s law imposes on people who don’t buy health insurance and on larger employers who don’t offer coverage and halts extra payments to states to expand Medicaid to more poor Americans. It also forbids states that haven’t already expanded Medicaid from doing so. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has refused to expand Medicaid under Obama’s reforms.

The legislation also replaces Obama’s subsidies for people buying individual policies with tax credits. It retains Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children up to age 26 as well as Obama’s prohibition on varying premiums based on gender.

States could get waivers exempting insurers from Obama’s prohibition on charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems as well as waivers exempting insurers from providing required coverage of specific health services, such as outpatient and pregnancy care.

Walker spokesman Jack Jablonski didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiring about whether the governor would seek such waivers.


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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