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Grand Rapids' Amash among health care holdouts

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Rep. Justin Amash, the Grand Rapids area Republican who opposes the GOP House health care reform bill, was among 30 House Freedom Caucus members who met Thursday with President Donald Trump before a vote on the legislation was delayed.

Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadow, R-North Carolina, said after the Trump meeting that there is “no deal” on the GOP health care legislation. Many Freedom Caucus members including the libertarian-leaning Amash have rejected the bill crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, in part because they say it preserves too much of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Amash told reporters afterward that Ryan still doesn’t have enough votes to pass the legislation, according to Fox News video.

The White House said Thursday afternoon the meeting was “productive.” Trump met in the afternoon with the moderate Republican Tuesday Group, which includes Michigan’s senior Republican, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph. Earlier this week, Upton had been leaning toward voting yes on the bill.

Obama released a statement celebrating the seventh anniversary of his signing of the signature health care law and defending it.

“And reality continues to discredit the false claim that this law is in a ‘death spiral,’ because while it’s true that some premiums have risen, the vast majority of Marketplace enrollees have experienced no average premium hike at all,” he said.

The Freedom Caucus has eyed the repeal of “essential health benefits” that the federal law requires insurance companies to cover, among other changes. But the proposal has alienated some moderate Republicans, such as Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who switched Wednesday to opposing the legislation.

Amash has said he wants the Republican majority to start over on a new bill that fully repeals the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare because it would “make the system worse” by repealing only portions of the law.

“Repealing EHB, w/out making other substantial changes, would make the bill worse, not better. It would hurt the sickest people on exchanges,” he tweeted.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said the decision by GOP leadership to delay Thursday’s planned vote “means that they can’t agree with one another on a Republican bill, which means they’ve got a really bad piece of legislation.”

“It doesn’t mean they won’t get there. But it will be because they offered these Republican members of Congress inducements that have nothing to do with healthcare,” Kildee added.

Most of the nine House Republicans from Michigan support the Ryan legislation as amended this week. Democrats vehemently oppose it.

Royal Oak Democrat Rep. Sandy Levin said the proposed revisions to the GOP legislation would “obliterate” care by removing the mandate that insurers cover “essential” benefits such as outpatient care, emergency room trips, prenatal and maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services, making it harder for them to find coverage.

“Republicans say they want ‘patient-centered’ care, but if people have no insurance policy, there won’t be any care,” Levin said. “They’re saying, ‘everyone on their own.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been seeking changes in the Ryan bill to address the higher premiums forecast for seniors and wanting to preserve the state’s unique form of Medicaid expansion for low-income residents.

Snyder told reporters Wednesday in Lansing that, while he is not necessarily opposed to the House legislation, “there’s improvements that need to be made.”

“I think on the manager’s side, they have started addressing to some degree the issue about insurance premiums for particularly people 50 to 64 years old, so it’s good to see some progress on that front,” Snyder said.

“The other two concerns I have, I really haven’t seen anything at this point that really addresses those.”

Levin, who met with Snyder to discuss the GOP health xare plan when he was in Washington, wishes Snyder would just say he disapproves of the bill if his concerns aren’t addressed.

“You have to take a stand. If he doesn’t say he’s opposed to the bill as it’s now being written, it undercuts his concerns,” Levin said. “It’s government by equivocation.”

mburke@detroitnews.com

Detroit News Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.