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Jones opposes Republican health care plan


Walter Jones


Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Add U.S. Rep. Walter Jones to the list of Republicans opposing the plan put forth to replace Obamacare.

Jones, a Farmville Republican who represents North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, said the House Republican leadership is moving too fast to approve legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

He wants the leadership to slow the process so the Congressional Budget Office can determine the cost of the Affordable Health Care Act, which opponents on the left and right are calling Trumpcare, to both individuals and taxpayers.

"It's all moving too fast in my opinion, and other members have said the same thing," Jones said. "They need to slow this bill down and give members of Congress and the American people a chance to take a deep breath and analyze what has been done and what changes, repeals are taking place."

The proposed legislation repeals the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. It also repeals taxes imposed on certain medical devices and services to cover the cost of Obamacare.

Instead of giving individuals subsidies to help purchase insurance, people will receive tax credits based in part on the buyer's age. It encourages people to set up health savings and flex savings accounts to pay for health care.

The legislation would rollback the expansion of Medicaid funds that provide low-income families with insurance, and Medicaid funding would be provided to states on a per capita basis.

The bill cleared the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees on Thursday. Jones does not serve on either of those committees. The bill will now go before the House Budget Committee early next week.

"I'm trying to get a better understanding of how senior citizens in the 3rd District will be impacted by the changes in the bill that just came out of committee," Jones said.

Like other Americans, Jones has seen statements from advocacy groups such as the AARP, the American Medical Association and other physician groups and several organizations representing hospitals opposing the legislation.

Jones also is disturbed that the American Action Network, a conservative organization that calls itself an "action tank" but is defined as a "social welfare organization" by the Internal Revenue Service, has launched a $500,000 television ad campaign in the districts of 30 representatives opposing the bill. North Carolina's Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the Freedom Caucus, is one of the targets.

"This is not the way to build friendship," Jones said. "When these outside groups start trying to coerce or threaten members of Congress to demand they vote a certain way, that takes away from the people. I encourage people of the district and the people of the country to let their member of congress know how they feel about this bill coming down the pike."

Jones said his offices received 75 messages on Wednesday urging him to oppose the bill.

Pitt County's other congressional representative, Wilson Democrat G.K. Butterfield, adamantly opposes the Republican plan.

"This plan will cost Americans more money while providing fewer protections and will lead to millions losing healthcare altogether," Butterfield said earlier this week.

Butterfield serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

On Wednesday he expressed his displeasure with the proposed legislation.

"Since the ACA was signed into law, millions of Americans have gained access to quality health care services and hundreds of thousands more have seen their health insurance improved," Butterfield said. "The ACA has played a significant role in reducing worry among Americans who previously struggled to pay unaffordable medical bills when they got sick."

Butterfield said 35,000 people in the 1st Congressional District obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Repealing it will rip away the health care they now receive, he said. It's estimated the Republican plan will raise premiums for older Americans by $3,200, he said.

"There are a lot of questions about this bill and we need a little bit of time to take a deep breath and digest," Jones said. "Usually when you move something too quickly, and this is what the Democrats found out with the Affordable Care Act, that you can make mistakes when you move too fast."

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.