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Kennedy on Obamacare: 'We Need to Make Improvements in It; We Need to Make Investments'

WASHINGTON – Following House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) decision to pull the GOP healthcare bill from consideration, Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Joe Kennedy (Mass.) said they are willing to work with Republicans to improve Obamacare and address the premium increase happening in the individual health insurance market.

“This is a victory for the American people. They said this was a terrible bill. We knew that as Democrats in the House and we stood up for American rights, which include access to affordable healthcare,” Moulton told PJM outside of the Capitol on Friday after the legislation was pulled from the floor.

When asked if he is willing to work with Republicans to find ways to deal with the insurance premium increases Americans are facing under Obamacare, Moulton said, “Absolutely. We’re willing to have that conversation, but they’ve got to be willing to have that, too.”

Kennedy said Congress has to make improvements to Obamacare.

“I was glad to see the Republicans decided not to go forward. I think it was a terrible bill that hurt an awful lot of people. Doctors were against it. Hospitals were against it. Patient groups were asked it. Nurses were against it. Seniors were against it. Everybody that was paying attention was against this bill, but that doesn’t mean our healthcare system is perfect,” he said during an interview at the Capitol. “We need to make improvements in it. We need to make investments in it. We need to make sure everybody has access to quality affordable healthcare and some people still don’t, and so we have to make sure we hear those voices too.”

PJM asked Kennedy what changes he would like to see made to the Affordable Care Act to prevent future premium increases.

“I think there are some real issues in certain parts of the country around issues about competition. I think part of that is from sabotage that Republicans went through in terms of defunding aspects of the Affordable Care Act that provided some stabilization to those marketplaces,” Kennedy said.

“I think more states taking the Medicaid expansion would also help some of those populations taking folks that are in need and otherwise would be on individual plans to be on Medicaid. I think some of those issues are individualized state by state. I will tell you that there is a commitment to make this law work and work well like we have in Mass. – we have a 3.4 percent unemployment rate and a 2.8 percent uninsured rate. You can do this well. We’re doing pretty well and if that commitment is made across the country I think they can do well, too,” he added.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Friday, President Trump said House Democrats’ refusal to support the repeal and replace bill led to its failure. Trump was not able to gain support for the bill from the conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, either.

“Hey, we could have done this,” Trump said. “But we couldn’t get one Democrat vote, not one. So that means they own Obamacare and when that explodes, they will come to us wanting to save whatever is left, and we’ll make a real deal.”

The day before the GOP pulled the repeal and replace bill, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus explained why they would not support the Republicans’ legislation.

“Make no mistake: repealing the Affordable Care Act will be a death sentence for thousands of Americans and it will make America sicker. The Republicans don’t seem to care and we know why,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said.

If signed in the law, Lee said the bill would have given tax breaks to CEOs and average Americans would pay more for less.

“My heart goes out to the American people today, especially Donald Trump’s supporters who believed the lie that Donald Trump would put their needs above the pockets of his corporate cronies. And I’ll tell you, they will disproportionately lose their healthcare, unfortunately. Republicans really should be ashamed of themselves – we are fighting for Donald Trump’s supporters also here,” she said.

Lee referred to the bill as “Trump Dump Care.”

“Insurance companies will once again be in charge of healthcare decisions and every American will pay more for less,” she said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) called the bill a tax cut for the wealthy “disguised” as a so-called healthcare bill. Schakowsky said she opposes the bill because it would result in an “age tax” for individuals 50 to 64 years old.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said there should be a single-payer, government-run healthcare system in America.

“Single-payer – everybody in, nobody out, that’s what we’re working toward,” he said. “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. We’re talking about giving people their healthcare rights.”

Conyers said Congress should support his bill, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, which would extend Medicare to every American.

“What we are doing is saying we’re going to organize the people of this country to bring a proactive, positive alternative vision to healthcare and Medicare for all,” he said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said the Republican healthcare bill would allow Americans to purchase health insurance that does not cover maternity care and mental health.

“We are going to ask the president, did he not promise healthcare for all Americans? How much of a misrepresentation and untruth and vileness and evilness – Americans are not only taking the poison pills but, hey, are eating a poison meal,” she said.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) argued that the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare should remain and Congress should work on fixes for the Affordable Care Act instead of throwing out the “whole system.”

“There are plenty of quirks and problems with the ACA and we have to work them out over time, but when you have a flat tire you don’t throw out the whole car,” he said.