Welch: Expedited repeal of Obamacare ‘an unprecedented breach’

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., says Republicans are expediting the repeal of Obamacare in the House and he describes the fast track approvals as an “unprecedented breach of any kind of legislative process.”

Within days of its release, two panels last week approved the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. Welch says there was very little legislative review and the bills passed out of committee with no Democratic support.

Welch is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the two House committees that has considered the Republican proposal. Both House Energy and the Ways and Means committees approved the bill before the Congressional Budget Office released a blistering report at the end of last week estimating that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance if the American Health Care Act is enacted.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Welch said he had virtually no time to review the bill before the Energy and Commerce hearing began. Members of Congress did not receive details about the complexities of the plan. No witnesses were called for guidance.

Peter Welch
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

“The good news here,” Welch concluded, “is that we have a real shot at killing this bill.”

“When the opponents of Obamacare — who voted to repeal it 70 times or so — actually had to come up with a replacement — and had to put pen to paper — all hell was going to break loose,” Welch said. “And it did.”

A number of the bill’s provisions have been criticized by moderate Republicans. Of chief concern is the planned sunset of the federal Medicaid expansion in 2020, a program that has enabled millions of Americans to obtain subsidized insurance policies in both red and blue states.

There is also unease about the Congressional Budget Office report, which estimates that premiums for elderly Americans would rise substantially.

“I’m seeing an awful lot of anxiety on the part of many Republicans,” Welch said.

The Vermont Agency of Human Services announced last week that the congressional plan could cost the state $200 million a year in federal funding starting in late 2019.

A day earlier, Vermont’s largest insurance company and the association representing the state’s 14 hospitals came out against the replacement plan.

Tom Huebner, the CEO and president of Rutland Regional Medical Center, estimates that the number of insured Vermonters could drop from 98 percent to 85 percent.

About 20,000 Vermonters obtain health insurance through the Medicaid expansion program under Obamacare and could lose coverage under the Republican plan. Huebner said another 40,000 residents could be priced out of coverage as subsidies disappear.

Huebner said if the funding cuts in the Republican plan are enacted, hospitals would likely have to either reduce the quality of care or increase prices.

“This would hit the pocket books of Vermonters in a very real way,” Huebner said.

Dr. John Brumsted, the CEO of the University of Vermont Medical Center, said the American Health Care Act would create more barriers to quality care and, in turn, would result in fewer Vermonters taking preventative measures that reduce cost and improve outcomes.

“In human terms, this means that people are really going to suffer,” Brumstead said. “They aren’t going to get the care that they need early in the process.”

Welch said congressional action should focus on fixing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Asked what Obamacare remedies Congress should pursue, Welch said the government should help stabilize markets in so-called “risk corridors.” The ACA, as passed, set up a three-year subsidy program to help health insurance companies offset the cost of setting up new markets across the country.

The startup costs were much more expensive than imagined, and the subsidy program was gutted in 2015 by Republicans in Congress, led by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The lack of payments have left insurance companies reeling, and have weakened insurance markets.

Welch said federal support could stabilize ailing insurance markets, and he dinged Rubio for gutting the provision.

Welch pointed to his recent White House meeting with President Donald Trump, which focused on lowering prescription drug prices, as another potential way to lower insurance costs for Americans.

“This is a constant project, and we’ve got to be all in,” Welch said.

Welch said he and his Democratic colleagues on the House Energy panel are asking the committee chairman to invite Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall for another hearing on the American Health Care Act.

The Republican health care bill must now pass out of both the House Budget and Rules committees before it receives a chamberwide vote. If approved, it will move to the Senate.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Edward Letourneau

    I’m tired of the whining about ACH. We all know it is not affordable as set up, and the democrats have offered nothing to fix it — but complain about the other guy’s proposed fix. — If they can’t play for the whole team, then its time to turn in the suit and go home.

    • Christopher Daniels

      What you dismiss as whining is people taking an active interest in the legislative process for policies that make substantial differences in their lives. Democracy in action.

      • Felicia Scott

        This issue is about Democrat obstruction and whining. Democrats have nothing to do with democracy. Two entirely different issues.

      • Edward Letourneau

        Wrong. I expect them to fix the problems, but all we here is one whine after another. Ask Welch just what he has proposed to fix ACH? Nothing!

        • Robert Lehmert

          If they undid the damage done by Rubio in reneging on the risk corridors (see the link in the article above), carriers would return to the exchanges. I think the next step would be plans with lower deductibles coupled with HSAs administered by the exchanges. I think we should revisit the subsidies to try to make coverage more affordable around the margins. But unless we go to a single payer system, eliminating private carriers altogether, this is the model. After all, ACA was a Republican-designed model!

  • Chet Greenwood

    Isn’t this exactly how Obamacare got passed- closed meetings, no Republican input and no Republicans voting for it. And Nancy Pelosi admitting no one read the bill before voting on it.
    That said- there is a lot of room for improvement in this bill and they should work together even after Sen Schumer said they (meaning all Dems) will vote against any changes to Obamacare.

    • No, this isn’t how the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed.

      • David Dempsey

        What is going to happen to the exchanges when more insurance companies follow the lead of Aetna, Unitedhealthcare, and Humana, all of whom have stopped offering insurance plans in most states. They are leaving the exchange because not enough young people are signing up for insurance and the risk pool is out of whack. Many younger people know it is cheaper to pay the $750 penalty than it is to buy a high deductible plan, even after subsidies. The biggest factor in the reduction of uninsured people came about because the ACA made many people eligible for Medicaid who weren’t eligible before. Medicaid only pays about 65% of the charge for services, which drives up the costs that providers bill to insurance companies to make up for the low medicaid reimbursements. This drives up the premiums that insured people pay, as the increases each year on the Vermont Healthcare Exchange show. think a lot of democrats agree that something has to be done to address these problems.

        • One of the excellent parts of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCares-TrumpDoesn’t) is that people across the board are expected to have some skin in the game whether it’s via cash or better self care.

          Medicaid IS insurance – maybe not the greatest, but I know Medicaid recipients who are alive today because of it.

          It was Republican stalwart Rubio who led the charge and gets the credit for hollowing out the subsidies which was responsible for last year’s huge rate hikes (in some parts of country only) and the exodus of insurance companies from the exchange(s).

          Here’s a thought: lose the insurance companies; and give everyone access to a federal level of coverage that covers some defined minimum. Want more coverage? Then allow folks to get it.

          Pay for the above with a solid mixture of business and personal income taxes.

          David, here’s a little story for you and others to read. And then come talk to me about affordability – https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/who-to-trust-when-it-comes-to-health-care-reform-trump-supporters-put-their-faith-in-him/2017/03/16/1c702d58-0a64-11e7-93dc-00f9bdd74ed1_story.html

      • robert bristow-johnson

        Rama, they don’t care. They don’t care about facts nor about history.

        Every falsehood is their “alternative facts”.

        They just don’t care.

    • JohnGreenberg

      Chet Greenwood:

      Obamacare passed after months of hearings, many of which were televised on C-Span. I personally watched hours of committee markups. It began with televised meetings at the White House. Republicans were full participants in these meetings and their input (and votes) were actively solicited. Nancy Pelosi made no such admission. You’re simply inventing history to suit your prejudices.

  • Kelly Stettner

    1) Where was Welch when Obamacare was being pushed through, when Pelosi insisted that “we have to pass it before we can know what’s in it?”

    2) Why does Welch get “the Congressional Cadillac Plan” when the rest of us peons have to choke on Obamacare? Why doesn’t he just propose that the rest of us get HIS health care plan?

    • David Bell

      ‘Where was Welch when Obamacare was being pushed through, when Pelosi
      insisted that “we have to pass it before we can know what’s in it?”‘

      Since she never said that, it is a meaningless question to answer.

      Better question. If Republicans do pass their anti-heathcare bill, and insurance rates plummet as predicted, will the r-wing response still be to shriek “But…. Nancy Pelosi said… But…. Nancy Pelosi said” in the hopes this lie will be accepted without question?

      • Steve Baker


        Nancy Pelosi…..

          • JohnGreenberg

            Let’s spell it out for them. Here’s the quote in context: ““You’ve heard about the controversies, the process about the bill…but I
            don’t know if you’ve heard that it is legislation for the future – not
            just about health care for America, but about a healthier America,” she
            told the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference,
            which has drawn about 2,000 local officials to Washington. “But we have
            to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the
            fog of the controversy.””

          • Glenn Thompson

            Fact of the matter is….She made the statement. Attempting to spin it to suit your interpretation doesn’t address the issue of the ACA. That bill was so complex and so huge, and so misunderstood, very few people who voted for it knew what was actually in it and how it would impact the healthcare industry longterm? The last thing we should be doing is passing bills into law without first understanding the full impact of the bill. In the case of the ACA, the Democrats just ‘winged it’ because Obama wanted it on his desk by “x” date.

            Elections have consequences. Now its the Republicans turn to take a shot at it. They could fail, or they will succeed. That chapter has yet to be written.

          • David Bell

            Facts do matter, and unless you have any evidence to support the many allegations you just made, you are showing a profound disrespect for the facts.

            Just as Keith did by misquoting Nancy Pelosi in order to misrepresent the facts of the situation.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Glenn Thompson:

            1) I quoted Nancy Pelosi’s statement in its context. How is that “attempting to spin it to suit (your) my interpretation?”

            2) Which part of the ACA’s “full impact” are you suggesting that Congress didn’t understand when they passed the bill? Specifics please.

            3) Sure, “Elections have consequences.” So what? The Republicans have proposed a crappy bill, and as a citizen, I have every right to oppose it. If enough citizens join me, it’s likely it will not be passed. Citizenship does not end with elections; it begins there.

      • Jim Manahan

        Is there any other revisionist history you’d like to suggest?

      • Gary Dickinson

        You are right! Must have been a group hallucination.

      • Glenn Thompson

        “Since she never said that, it is a meaningless question to answer.”

        Talk about living in denial. Of course she said it, here is the exact quote. How you wish to interpret it….that’s on you!

        “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”

        • David Bell


          Let’s take a look at the actual, full quote:

          “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

          As opposed to your partial quote:

          “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”

          As opposed to Keith’s misquote ‘when Pelosi insisted that “we have to pass it before we can know what’s in it?”‘

          Want to try again about who is living in denial?

          As for interpretation, the misquote provided is clearly meant to provide the misinterpretation that she passed a bill without knowing what was in it.

          Now that we have the full quote, rather than a partial quote, or a misquote; that clearly does not support the misinterpretation intended.

          • Dan DeCoteau

            Well now we know what’s in it now and it is nothing more than health care welfare imploding under it’s own weight. Do you read the news or just make it up as you go? The goal was to insure 30 million people by imposing draconian penalties on young people for not buying the one size fits all insurance fiasco. For many people they had to spend thousands of dollars in premium payments and deductibles before their insurance even kicked in. It’s nothing more than a ponzi scheme created for wealth distribution in hopes that it would fail so single payer could be brought in to rescue the plan. In the mean time, the country got a taste of socialized healthcare and voted for Trump. As President Obama famously proclaimed “Elections have consequences”! Good bye Obama care!!!!

          • JohnGreenberg

            Dan DeCoteau:

            The goal was to insure MOST of the uninsured population. Much of the goal was obtained. According to the Kaiser Foundation, the number of uninsured declined by 13 million of roughly 8%. Many of those remaining uninsured live in states where, despite the incentives in the ACA, Medicaid did not get expanded. http://kff.org/uninsured/fact-sheet/key-facts-about-the-uninsured-population/

            The authors of the bill could not have foreseen that the Supreme Court would overturn the provisions of Medicaid intended to pressure states (as well as entice them financially) to participate.

            Before you say goodbye to Obamacare, Republicans will need to pass its replacement (or suffer the electoral consequences).

            Good luck: you’re going to need it.

          • Dan DeCoteau

            Don’t forget that you reside in the 2nd most liberal minded state in the country. The rest of the country does not automatically think like you or other people who think like you. The ACA is a 2,600 page monster bill that none of the democrats read and passed it anyway (with no republican votes) for the sake of their ideology and to trap more voters who would benefit from healthcare welfare. In case you haven’t noticed, democrats and progressive ideas are being rejected all across the country as well as the politicians who push them. The plan is failing because it was designed to fail only to be rescued by democrats again under national healthcare or single payer.Unfortunately for you and those who think like you, the voters saw the plan and rejected it. It doesn’t work for anyone except those who receive huge subsidies through medicaid. It’s all been explained before. Perhaps republicans should just leave it alone and let it die by itself in order to prove to people like you that nothing is free and the ACA fiasco failed bigly! The responsible thing to do is get rid of it and to clean up the mess and wasted money it left behind. Will it be easy? No because in Washington DC nothing is easy unless it’s a congressional pay increase.

          • David Bell

            Well, we do know what is in it, that much is true.

            Massive increase in number of people with insurance, many for the first time, costs increasing at the slowest rate in decades, more would have been accomplished if right wing governors allowed medicaid to be expanded instead of their standard “let’s stick it to the poor” ideology.

            Right wingers made up bizarre, false claims about Obamacare for years, staged over a dozen political theater style repeal votes and then refused to offer a single alternative. Now they slapped together a poorly conceived plan at the last minute that will result in tens of millions of people losing insurance.

            And the saddest part is, to you, this actually constitutes a victory.

      • Matt Young

        I’m not familiar with any anti-healthcare bill.

  • Christopher Daniels

    The legislative process for Obamacare is public record. Multiple hearings before the draft bill was released in June 2009. Republican amendments were defeated by voice vote and roll call vote in committees. Republican amendments (not many) were also approved. This history is fact.

  • Steve Baker

    Here is a Historical Record in the Democrats own words:
    “We have to pass the law so we can know whats in it”
    Nancy Pelosi D
    “If you like your Doctor, You can keep your Doctor”
    Pres. Obama D
    “People will see a $2500 savings on their Premiums”
    Pres. Obama D
    “If you like your Plan, You can keep your Plan”
    Pres. Obama D
    “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really really critical for this thing to pass”
    Jonathan Grubber D
    “I just see a Hugh Train Wreck coming down”
    Max Baucus D
    “The implementation of this is Fabulous”
    Nancy Pelosi D

    Welch should follow his own advise, Work with the house, Offer an amendment, suggest Changes…..instead he stands on the sideline and whines

    • David Bell

      Steve Baker’s words: “We have to pass the law so we can know whats in it”

      Nancy Pelosi’s own words (actual quote as opposed to misquote): “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

      Glad to have done my part in correcting the historical record.

  • David P. Bresett

    The Affordable Care Act was set to pass with single payer until concessions were made to get it through and republicans ruined a good bill. Thank the right for it being a bad bill.
    Thank government for NOT making healthcare insurance illegal anyway!!!

    • Glenn Thompson

      Explain how the Republicans ruined the ACA when every amendment they proposed got shot down by a Democratically controlled Congress? Not a single Republican supported the final bill and it was signed into law by a Democratic president. Seems to me, the ACA is owned by the Democrats “lock stock and barrel”

      • David Bell

        “Explain how the Republicans ruined the ACA when every amendment they
        proposed got shot down by a Democratically controlled Congress?”

        The explanation is easy:your statement is false. Many amendments submitted by Republicans were added to the ACA.


      • Robert Lehmert

        That is explained at the link in the article where it states ” the subsidy program was gutted in 2015 by Republicans in Congress, led by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.”. Read that, and you’ll see that Senator Rubio pulled the rug out from the insurers in 2014, causing many of them to lose a great deal of reimbursement (i.e.: “risk corridors”) they were promised for taking all applicants, without preexisting condition exclusions/rejections.

        ““Risk corridors have become a political football,” said Dawn H. Bonder, the president and chief executive of Health Republic of Oregon, an insurance co-op that announced in October it would close its doors after learning that it would receive only $995,000 of the $7.9 million it had expected from the government. “We were stable, had a growing membership and could have been successful if we had received those payments. We relied on the payments in pricing our plans, but the government reneged on its promise. I am disgusted.”’

  • Mary Martin

    Thanks, Peter! I feel you have our backs on this one.