Sens. King, Collins cast initial votes against health care repeal as bill advances

Sens. King, Collins cast initial votes against health care repeal as bill advances

Maine Senators Angus King and Susan Collins voted against a motion to proceed to debate on the GOP health care repeal bill Tuesday, which passed when Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only Republican to join Collins in voting against the motion.

“Today, the Senate has moved forward to consider misguided legislation, any version of which will hurt millions of people across the country and tens of thousands of hardworking people across Maine,” said King. “I’ve never seen a process like this before with no hearings and it will almost certainly produce a terrible bill that will drastically raise costs for people in Maine, will put coverage out of reach for many others, and reduce Medicaid funding, causing states to choose between helping seniors or children or people with disabilities.”

Later Tuesday evening, King and Collins also voted against the first amendment to the still-nebulous bill, legislation called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which was meant to be the Republican consensus plan. That proposal was soundly defeated, with 57 votes against.

Health care experts and patient advocates universally condemn the Republican repeal attempts, which have all included deep cuts to Medicaid and are expected to have a disproportionately devastating affect on Maine due to the state’s elderly population, relatively low incomes, rural geography and ongoing opioid dependency crisis.

“What possible good can come from raising the cost of health care for seniors, sending the individual market nationwide into a death spiral, blocking women from cancer screenings, letting insurance companies get away with charging whatever they want for people with pre-existing conditions, and making it harder for our communities to get ahead of the opioid epidemic?” asked Steve Butterfield, policy director for Maine-based Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

“All the various versions and iterations of the healthcare repeal bill have at least one thing in common: this is the worst piece of legislation for women in a lifetime,” said Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy for the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund. “We are thankful Senator King and Senator Collins opposed the motion to proceed, the first step towards passing a bill denying health care to millions of Americans, including 10,000 Mainers who rely on Planned Parenthood for critical care like annual exams, cancer screenings, and birth control.”

Maine First-District Representative Chellie Pingree also blasted the bill.

“Today’s vote was an act of cowardice by Republican leadership, many of whom have refused to address to concerns of their constituents—the people who will feel the consequences of this bill in the most personal of ways,” said Pingree. “If the Senate does move forward with a bill, I will fight it tooth and nail in the House as so many Mainers have asked me to do.”

Second-District Representative Bruce Poliquin voted in favor of the House version of the Republican proposal in May and continues to dodge questions from his constituents about the consequences of the health care repeal.

Photo via Flickr/TRNS.

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