Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko Discusses Health Care Overhaul, Trump Budget In Albany

Mar 20, 2017

Republican leaders are planning a vote Thursday to repeal and replace much of Obamacare. Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko doesn’t think much of the plan. The Democrat met with reporters at his Albany office Sunday morning.

Tonko delivered an informal on-the-record update on the healthcare debate swirling around Washington. The Amsterdam Democrat's biggest fear: the American Health Care Act will negate any gains made under the Affordable Care Act.     "What we have before us now is Trumpcare. Your fingerprints are on this, you're giving us a lesser quality bill, you're breaking your campaign promises, Mr. President. What are you gonna do about it?  And that's what this week holds. I wanna see action, positive action. I wanna see compassion and I wanna see effectiveness. And I wanna see sound stewardship of the people's tax dollars."

The Congressional Budget Office's recently released report on the GOP's replacement for Obamacare predicts 24 million Americans would lose insurance by 2026.   "I'm waiting for a CBO analysis of its overall scoring. All 24 of those of us serving on Energy and Commerce as Democrats, myself included... we have, as a group, requested a hearing with CBO to ask about their Trumpcare calculations. I think it's that important."

Tonko adds that the AHCA will give the 400 wealthiest families in the nation tax breaks. He fears that under Trumpcare 14 million people will drop from health insurance rolls within a year, as out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and premiums increase.  "The order of business that ought to be addressed is controlling costs. And doing that, I believe, in a bi-partisan way, working legislative branch to executive branch, great work can happen here. But if the effort is to erase the fingerprint of the prior presidency as it relates to the Affordable Care Act, and it becomes simply a political exercise, you then see the damaging outcome, the devastating outcome, that rises to the top, and it's not an acceptable thing."

Tonko notes that healthcare accounts for a sixth of the nation’s economy. He believes Trumpcare does not fix existing challenges, and he says President Trump is not in step with American values.

Republican Congressman John Faso of the neighboring 19th district has been credited with casting the single vote that helped the AHCA clear a congressional committee.  The Kinderhook Republican defends the AHCA from a vastly different perspective:  "Just a month ago the CBO told us that the national debt is gonna go from $19 trillion to $29 trillion in just 10 years. It would be irresponsible for us not to seek ways in which we can lower that debt curve, because we're otherwise going to leave our children and grandchildren with an impossible financial condit- situation to deal with. Another aspect that has been raised by my friends on the other side, they complain about the age-banding proposal. Right now, they call it age discrimination. Age banding in the ACA is 3 to 1. You can charge a 60-year-old three times more than you can charge a 20-year-old. This legislation would give, as the experts who testified before us about six weeks ago, it would give states the option to move to 5 to 1. The problem is gonna be in states like New York where the law says it has to be 1 to 1. And that's how New York state destroyed its own individual insurance market. So the key here is to create more flexibility, more ability for states to design programs, and also to have more flexibility in terms of the insurance law."

Faso argues the AHCA will LOWER premiums and deductibles. "What good is insurance if you can't afford it?"  Faso issued a statement explaining his vote, saying he expects the bill to get closer scrutiny in the days ahead.

In an effort to gauge the AHCA’s impact on people who buy their own insurance, WalletHub’s analysts compared the differences in premium subsidies that the average households in 457 U.S. cities would receive under Obamacare and Trumpcare. (Hover and click on any dot in your region: each dot represents a city.)

Source: WalletHub