SILVER CREEK, N.Y. - Congressman Tom Reed (R-23) defended his vote on the amended American Health Care Act in an interview on Tuesday, brushing off intense criticism from some constituents who showed up by the hundreds to voice their displeasure at town hall meetings this weekend.
Reed, whose district includes Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties, said he's comfortable with his decision to vote "yes" in the House of Representatives last week after reading the amended text.
After attending an event in Silver Creek to discuss federal funding for waterways in Chautauqua County, Reed met with 2 On Your Side's Danny Spewak in a one-on-one interview to specifically address his vote on the American Health Care Act.
Click the video above for an excerpt of the interview, and read below for a transcript.
DANNY: You had wavered a bit on the amended health care bill. What was it that swayed you to vote yes?
REED: It wasn't about wavering or anything. It was about reading the text. And we saw the base text and supported the base text, and then we went to the amendment process. And some amendments had been floated around, and until you actually see the filed text, I thought it was prudent to say I didn't know where I stood on it. Then, once we saw the text and the base bill together, I was very comfortable in being a yes vote on the legislation, and moving the bill forward to address what's happening with America's health care right now and the collapse of ObamaCare.
The first thing it does is it starts to alleviate the burdens of the one-size-fits-all health care that's being placed on America right now. As a result, you're seeing insurance carriers not be able to participate in the exchanges. I know premium notices are going out in our area, upwards of 40 to 50 percent premium increases. People can't afford that. People are struggling. People are having a tough time. That's why this goes in the direction of alleviating that crisis and that burden.
DANNY: With a million people potentially losing access to coverage (in New York), according to the Department of Health, what would you say to those people who could find themselves in a difficult situation, whether it's Medicaid or other programs?
REED: I understand the Department of Health's desire to maintain the status quo. They're obviously used to what they do, but we need to do better. We owe it to the citizens of New York, to the citizens of our area, to do better when it comes to the Medicaid program. And other programs. And what this will do is clearly put pressure on them to do a better job in delivering health care for our local residents and the people who need it the most on the lower-income side. So what I encourage them to do is, embrace it. Let's work together. Let's solve this program. So that we can maintain that health care coverage that people need and do it in a way that does it better, more effective and more efficiently, because the status quo is bankrupting the nation and bankrupting the state.
DANNY: Do you think (the state) will be able to afford picking up the tab -- especially with the Collins amendment -- will they be able to pick up the tab (due to the AHCA's deep Medicaid cuts and phaseout of Medicaid expansion)? The Governor has said he thinks it could devastate, potentially, hospitals.
REED: I understand what the Governor doesn't like, is what he's done to counties for generations and for decades... What we're essentially saying is, no longer can you pass that to the local people. It's an unfunded mandate that he's passing on to the local county taxpayers and what we're saying is, hey, you control the program, you have the flexibility now... you need to be held accountable to this program, 100 percent, and take the hit off the back of our local taxpayer.
DANNY: The other criticism we heard, including at your town halls this weekend, is that the Congressional Budget Office never did an updated analysis of the amended bill. Why not wait for a CBO analysis?
REED: That's fair criticism. I heard that criticism. Obviously, the base CBO score is there, the base analysis and the score that's still out there... but the amendments dealt with waivers and what states can do in applying for waivers. That's very hard to score. So I don't think the score's going to change much with the amendments. Knowing the base score, I was comfortable making the best informed decision we had at the time we had it, and moving forward is the right step for me.
DANNY: But those estimates -- especially the original estimate from the CBO -- with more than 20 million potentially losing access, does that give you reason for concern?
REED: Sure, when you see numbers for that, obviously, it's a concern. But you have to put it in perspective. Under the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, the CBO, the scorekeepers, predicted that 22 million people would have health insurance. Numbers came in, only about 10 to 11 million. To be beholden to the beancounter of D.C., rather than taking action to deal with the crisis that's upon us... to me, that's not the right way to do it.
DANNY: People have said here in the last couple days-- they won't vote for you based on this one single vote. Are you confident when you're up for re-election that you'll have the support of your constituents?
REED: I'm very confident. If you lead, and you recognize there's a crisis, and you're part of trying to solve the problem... politics takes care of that. And that's what I'm doing here. I know there's a crisis. I know people are not going to be able to afford these premiums, I know the insurance market is collapsing under ObamaCare.... I'm about solving problems, and when you do it that way, I think the politics take care of themselves.