WSJM reporter Andrew Green interviewed U.S. Rep. Fred Upton on his healthcare votes and views, including Upton’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Upton defends his vote against Obamacare, despite record enrollments in 2018 and polls showing a majority (54%) support Obamacare.
WSJM: It’s been about a year since the vote was taken in the House on what was called by some the Trump Care bill – the replacement for the Affordable Care Act . You voted in favor of that bill. Can you talk to us a bit about that bill and why you voted the way you did?
Rep. Fred Upton: “Well, we had a vote to try and reform the Obamacare bill. Premiums have gone up substantially. I had a couple of lines in the sand that I put out. I wanted to make sure that states like our that expanded Medicaid (under the Affordable Care Act), that those individuals would be protected. And so I worked very closely to make sure that in fact people that were on Medicaid in states where it was expanded were protected. We grandfathered those individuals there. I also was very concerned about some efforts that were gonna to take away pre-existing illnesses. And I passed an amendment that said that if a state for some reason dropped that coverage that we would have a pool a pool to help those – a high risk pool – that would have to start with $6 billion to protect those individuals with any pre-existing illnesses. And that was made part of the bill. And of course, as we know, at the end of the day the Senate failed to pass the bill and so Obamacare remains as it was intended when it passed narrowly in the House in the first year of President Obama’s presidency.”
WSJM: Congressional Budget Office at the time had estimated the plan – what some called the Trump Care plan – would result in about 23 million uninsured over ten years, cutting Medicaid coverage for low-income people.
Upton: Well, again, in Michigan I made the successful point that we should not change Medicaid for those states that expanded it like ours. So we, we protected that in the bill and was able to block efforts that would have eliminated Medicaid for those states where it had been expanded on day one.
WSJM: What about the other states?
Upton: “Well, new states were not gonna be permitted to expand. And now since then – and remember this legislation didn’t pass, didn’t become enacted since then, since June of 2017 or so a couple of states – I know Virginia is one that did expand – I think they expanded Medicaid coverage. For ours, our state has been unchanged in terms of what it did for Medicaid expansion.”
WSJM: All right, now we talked about Obamacare as it’s known – the Affordable Care Act. In your view you’ve told us in the past it’s not working. What do you view are the problems with it?
Upton: “Well, premiums have increased substantially and of course remember this was sold on the idea that you could keep your healthcare plan if you liked it. And of course that did not end up being the case at all. So, we need healthcare reform. There’s no question about it. Efforts to repeal Obamacare are not likely to occur. The Senate didn’t have the votes before and I don’t think that they’ll – you know, that’s no longer an issue. For me, I’d like to see a number of different things. I’d like to see health savings accounts, those encouraged. Not only individuals, but also small businesses in particular to set up savings accounts – health savings account like an IRA for healthcare expenses. We gotta make sure that pre-existing illnesses are covered – something I’ve always believed in. And of course the states run the Medicaid plan. For us here in Michigan Medicaid was expanded (under the Affordable Care Act). And I wanna make sure that those people are protected.”
WSJM: Looking at the Affordable Care Act the Kaiser Family Foundation has said that the number of uninsured in the country has dropped from 48 million before it was passed to 28.6 million now. So are there positives to the Affordable Care Act?
Upton: “Well, there are a lot of weak – you know – unfortunately when Obamacare passed it was not bipartisan. There are a lot of good ideas I think on both sides of the aisle that can be used to improve healthcare. And, you know, it’s pretty apparent that in this Congress it’s not likely to happen.