Dingell: Fight GOP on repeal of health care law

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell and state Democratic representatives Sunday called on their constituents to push back against a Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I encourage all of you ... you all need to call your elected officials and tell them how you feel,” Dingell said. “We cannot not fight back. We have to make our voices heard across the state.”

Dingell and state representatives hosted a town hall designed to discuss the GOP’s proposed health care replacement for former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and what it means for Michigan residents.

The plan to repeal the law is expected to arrive on the House floor within the next week, said Dingell, D-Dearborn. Thursday marks the seventh anniversary of Obama’s milestone domestic achievement.

“I came because I wanted to know more about the plan and what was in it,” said Catherine Gardner of Ypsilanti, one of about 340 people who turned out at Eastern Michigan University’s Ypsilanti campus. “It was a good meeting.”

The GOP-backed congressional bill was unveiled earlier this month. Michigan is among 32 states that could be forced out of popular Medicaid expansion programs designed to enroll the state’s poor and uninsured under Obama’s health care overhaul. More than 650,00 Michigan residents are enrolled in the state’s Healthy Michigan plan, funded largely by the federal government. The GOP House plan would offer a “stable transition” with full Medicaid expansion coverage through 2019, but end that funding beginning in 2020.

In addition to curbing Medicaid enrollment, the Republican bill would kill much of Obama’s health care law, including ending tax penalties for those who don’t buy insurance and levies on the wealthy and medical firms that helped finance the expansion of coverage under Obama to 20 million Americans.

On Friday, President Donald Trump agreed to additional Medicaid cuts to the health care replacement bill in a nod to conservative lawmakers. But the bill’s fate remained clouded, with some conservatives balking, saying the new curbs were insufficient and that they had enough allies to sink the measure.

Dingell was joined by Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor; Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township; Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor; Rep. Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; and Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.

Dozens of people asked the panel about the GOP proposal and how to stop it.

“This goes for everyone in this room,” Zemke said. “We need as many people as possible talking to their elected officials about this to let them know what we want at the end of the day.”

Rabhi had harsher words for the GOP plan. “This bill is class warfare,” he said. “It’s an attack on working Americans. This is a reverse Robin Hood.”

Dingell’s town hall meeting came a day after a raucous Saturday forum sponsored by U.S. Rep. David Trott, R-Birmingham.

So many people showed up for the Trott’s town hall in Novi at which the new health care law was discussed that the doors had to be shut and hundreds were left standing outside the Suburban Collection Showplace. It was a rocky meeting and Trott was shouted down so loudly that he found it difficult to answer questions.

At the end of the meeting, Trott said: “I appreciate your coming out today ...”

Democrats like Dingell and others remain opposed to the GOP bill.

Dingell said the Congressional Budget Office determined that 24 million Americans would lose insurance by 2026 and 14 million would lose their coverage next year.

Healthy Michigan, which Gov. Rick Snyder has championed as a model for the nation, includes cost-sharing and healthy behavior provisions that required two federal waivers for full implementation. He and a group of GOP governors told congressional leaders last week that they don’t support the current version of the replacement health care bill and urged lawmakers to give states greater authority to revise Medicaid programs they expanded to increase insurance coverage for the poor. The House health care plan would cost Michigan $530 million to maintain the Medicaid expansion by late 2019 abd wiykd trigger its end under state law, a new Senate Fiscal Agency report found.

Dingell said she has read all 66 pages of the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.

“There’s so many pieces of this that has me concerned,” she said. “This bill would give a tax break of $7 million to the 400 wealthiest families in the country.”

“It’s unacceptable,” she said. “It’s not right and that’s why we’re working against it.”


The Associated Press contributed.