U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, says he is whipping votes for Speaker Paul Ryan’s healthcare reform proposal and hopes to see it move to the House floor as early as tomorrow.
Appearing on “Connect with Congress” through KATV Channel 7, Womack visited with Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock on Wednesday morning.
“I’m a ‘lean yes,’ we’ll whip it today. The Budget Committee on which I serve will take it up tomorrow (Thursday) and hopefully, we can get it out of Budget and get it to the floor of the House where we can see action,” Womack said.
Womack said he has issues with provisions in the current plan that stair-step potential premiums for older health care users who might not be able to afford the steep increases projected.
“This whole plan may not be perfect,” he said. “There are some things that I think should be changed in it, notably and one of my chief concerns is what happens on the top income earners. That they get more of a break than the low income, particularly the low income senior – on not necessarily a fixed income, but a low income – we need to find the equilibrium somewhere there.”
When asked about the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that 14 million Americans could lose their insurance in the next year under the plan and as many as 24 million over the next ten years, Womack said making the changes underway were what Republicans campaigned on.
“When we united the government in the last election, it was placed upon us that we need to govern,” he said. “We all ran on the promise that we were going to do something about the failed health care law we now know as Obamacare. And it’s incumbent upon Republicans – both in the House and the Senate – with a promise from the White House to sign it, that we do something.”
He added that the removal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate to buy health insurance would likely result in individuals making the choice to not purchase coverage.
“When you take a mandate away that says you must buy something, then it’s obvious that there are going to be people out there that are not going to be subject to that mandate, nobody’s going to be subject to those mandates anymore if this thing passes. And naturally, a number of people – how the CBO quantifies that, I don’t know – there are going to be a number of people who are not going to buy health insurance,” said Womack.
When pressed for further clarification on if the GOP plan is aimed at reducing coverage, Womack added, “I’m not going to take the bait, I’m not going to be backed into a corner and give you a talking point or a sound bite that says, ‘Yeah, there goes a Congressman talking about this is the ultimate goal of [repealing] Obamacare to make sure that people aren’t insured.’ Nobody wants to see that happen. But as we’ve already said, when you take the mandates away, there will be people making the decision not to be covered by health insurance.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has been pressing Arkansas’ Congressional delegation to leave Medicaid funding intact, but to give the states more flexibility to control how it can be spent. Womack said he’s been in multiple conversations with Hutchinson on the subject and has valued his input.
The Third District Republican Congressman also said that he believes the budget reconciliation measure currently being considered is just one of three steps to “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act. Womack said that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price would be able to use rules and regulations to also undo aspects of the law. He also believes that through regular orders of business an additional bill could install further aspects of the Republican-led health care plan, such as tort reform or selling insurance across state lines.
Watch Rep. Womack’s full interview below.