In a recent interview with KREM's Rob Harris in Spokane, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she's never voted for healthcare legislation that didn't include protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Here's the exchange, emphasis mine:
Rob Harris: And so you would not vote for legislation that did not have protection for those with pre-existing conditions?
Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Right. And I haven’t.
This little sneaked-in statement is misleading. In May of 2017, Rodgers proudly voted for Trumpcare 2.0, aka the revamped version of the American Health Care Act, which would have weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions. So how can she claim—with a grin—that she's never voted for such legislation?
In order to address this claim, we must stretch our minds all the way back to last year, back to the days when House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republicans were trying to pass Trumpcare through Congress before the Congressional Budget Office could even score the bill. Remember those news cycles? Maybe a few triggering phrases will help. Repeat after me: CBO, high-risk pool, "ramming it through," 13 male Senators in a backroom. Are you there yet? Excellent. Then come along with me...
Like Rodgers, Donald Trump and North Carolina Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger both claimed that "pre-existing conditions are in the bill," referring to the AHCA.
As Will Doran explains for Politifact, the AHCA would have dropped "Obamacare’s rules capping how much extra [people with pre-existing conditions] can be charged." Though the MacArthur Amendment said companies couldn't "limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions," it didn't say companies couldn't charge them more, effectively pricing sick people out of coverage. Several medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, and the AARP—warned that health insurance companies would do exactly that.
Republicans at the time—including Rodgers—countered, saying the bill included $138 billion over the course of a decade for states to set up high risk pools and other reinsurance programs. The Upton-Long amendment added $8 billion on top of that. They argued that amount of money would be plenty to cover those with pre-existing conditions. It isn't.
Citing two analyses, Glenn Kessler showed that money wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions.
Here's Vox with more, quoting Larry Levitt at the Kaiser Family Foundation:
The problem is that the bill neither specifies how the money should be spent nor provides enough of that money, Levitt said. People in states with the AHCA waivers could see 'massive premium increases,' he told me: 'There's no way a reinsurance program or direct subsidies could ever fully offset that for everyone, and states aren't required to do so.'
As for high-risk pools...Levitt said the funding is 'inadequate' and 'there are no requirements for what the eligibility, premiums, or benefits in high-risk pools would have to be.'
So, Rodgers is trying to claim there were protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the AHCA. But several top medical associations and analysts say those "protections" didn't amount to protections.
You can expect to hear Rodgers trying to make this claim over and over again in the coming months.
The seven-term Congresswoman faces an unexpectedly tough race in her district, one likely to focus on healthcare issues. According a new poll from Elway, her current 5-point lead over Democratic challenger Lisa Brown, a former State Senator for Spokane and chancellor of Washington State University, is “not statistically significant." This finding tracks with a poll the DCCC released last week. Another thing that happened last week: the non-partisan analysts over at Cook Political Report downgraded the district from "Likely R" to "Lean R."
Rodgers is on the run, and she's trying to look like a compassionate person on healthcare. How anyone could vote to boot 23 million people off of healthcare and still call themselves compassionate is beyond my understanding.
On Twitter, New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin reports "rumors" that McMorris Rodgers might follow the lead of other Republican incumbents and retire (goodbye, Paul Ryan! goodbye, Dave Reichert!), but her staff was quick to reaffirm Rodgers's commitment to the race.
Amid rumors @cathymcmorris will retire, her staff blasts out email >>>
“She is running hard and running strong - posting the largest fundraising quarter of her career”
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) April 11, 2018
If Rodgers does drop out, there's still time for another Republican to step in. The FEC filing deadline for the state of Washington is May 18. However, it's hard to say why she'd consider retirement. The announcement of Ryan's plan to retire bumps her into the No. 3 position in House leadership. She's moving right on up.