Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a physician and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus — some of whose members have come out against the House Republican health care bill endorsed by Speaker Paul Ryan — said he is cautiously optimistic about the bill’s prospects.
“I know that most of the Freedom Caucus members like me want to get to yes,” Harris told Bold in an interview. “I personally think it’s a little late to be talking about alternatives that would alter the basic structure. We can certainly make changes of the components.”
Harris has been a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, saying he is worried about increases in premiums and deductibles and fewer consumer choices. Harris said he is cautiously optimistic about the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the GOP replacement introduced in the House to replace Obamacare. Harris said he believes the AHCA will drive down costs while improving healthcare access and quality.
However, the AHCA has faced numerous critics from both the right (including the Heritage Action activist arm of the Heritage Foundation) and the left, with Democrats decrying the bill after a review by the Congressional Budget Office showing 24 million people would be uninsured by 2026 under the AHCA.
Harris said the CBO analysis underestimated the market’s ability to incentivize insurance enrollment. He praised proposals from the AHCA to 1) remove the Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance and 2) give greater control over Medicaid decisions to the states, saying the AHCA would helping reduce Medicaid fraud and abuse while tailoring the program to serve the most needy rather than more generous spending.
“The federal government can’t afford that expansion,” Harris said.
The AHCA also calls for maintaining coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance, policies that Harris said would make the transition from Obamacare to the AHCA as smooth as possible. He said the Obamacare exchanges proved unsustainable as many insurance companies dropped out.
“It’s not a question of whether the Obamacare exchanges will be around in two or three years, they won’t be,” Harris said.
Harris was named to serve on the Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood. The AHCA calls for the removal of public funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Certainly Planned Parenthood has a very easy way to get that funding resorted, and that is to divest themselves of their abortion business” Harris said.
House leaders are expected to bring a vote on the bill to the floor before the full House of Representatives next week. Observers say the Senate is generally more moderate and would have a harder time accepting a more conservative version of the bill.
“I would be surprised if the Senate said ‘Oh yeah we’ll take whatever the House sends over,'” Harris said. “but in the end I’ll be surprised if the president, with the powers of the presidency, can’t convince a majority of senators to support [what Republicans ultimately negotiate.]”
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.