BUFFALO, N.Y. - As expected, Western New York's two Republican members of the House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve the amended American Health Care Act, with Democrat Brian Higgins of Buffalo voting against the measure.
Congressman Chris Collins (R-27) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-23) both released statements praising their fellow Republicans for passing the bill, which now moves to the Senate, where it's expected to face scrutiny from both parties.
"Today is a great victory for the American people. We are finally on the path to fixing our broke and broken health care system," Reed said in a statement, reaffirming his position after reportedly wavering for several weeks.
Collins, meanwhile, said in a statement that the House vote "puts us even closer to ending the Obamacare nightmare that has plagued Americans for the last seven years."
Higgins, on the other hand, called the amended bill a "disgusting assault on those most in need of health coverage." Aligning with other Democrats in the House, he sharply criticized Republicans for putting forth an amended bill that had not yet been fully analyzed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
"Today's rush for a vote put politics before people, representing a determination to do something rather than to do good," Higgins said in a statement. "This bill is an attack on the most vulnerable - older Americans, children, Americans with disabilities, and those fighting for their lives. It will cost people their health and financial stability – and the greater the need for healthcare, the greater the cost."
Without the CBO analysis of the amended bill, the exact impact of the bill in the state of New York is unclear. However, Gov. Cuomo's Democratic administration released an estimate in January, projecting 2.7 million New Yorkers could lose coverage under the American Health Care Act. More than 93,000 could lose coverage in Erie County, according to Gov. Cuomo's office.
The American Health Care Act, as passed by the House of Representatives, includes a few key provisions that could impact Western New Yorkers. For example, Congressman Collins added an amendment in the original bill this winter -- which remained in place for the amended bill -- that would shift the burden of Medicaid costs from upstate New York counties toward the state of New York. The plan would provide $470 million in property tax savings in Collins' 27th District, his office said, but Gov. Cuomo is infuriated by the move and has threatened legal action.
Cuomo's office has said the amendment from Collins could overwhelm the state budget and devastate the health care system. Collins' amendment has enthusiastic support from Congressman Reed, however.
Regarding the coverage of pre-existing conditions, the House measure may not have a significant impact on the state of New York. While the amended bill would allow states to obtain a waiver to opt out of requirements for covering potentially costly pre-existing conditions, that has been forbidden by state law in New York since the early 1990s. Collins point that fact out in a statement posted to Twitter, in which he referred to Democrats as "fearmongerers."
Higgins, however, has been vocal in his opposition to the overall pre-existing condition clause as it relates to the entire country.
"This plan should be rejected again," Higgins said in April. "It's cold, cruel and wrong."