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President-Elect Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a rally in Cincinnati on October 13.

Athens politicians react to House passage of health care bill

Millions of Americans — including some Athens County residents — could lose health coverage after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored health care bill, the American Health Care Act, on Thursday.

The passage through the House of Representatives brings President Donald Trump one step closer to his campaign promise to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The bill is most notably rolling back on the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, under which about 20 million Americans gained coverage.

Approximately 700,000 Ohioans are utilizing Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. John Haseley, Athens County Democratic Party chair, said the residents of Athens County are not going to benefit from the bill.

“We don't have big insurance companies and big drug companies, and the kind of wealthy individuals that are going to benefit from this $600 billion tax giveaway,” he said. “But we do have a lot of poor and middle-class people that depend on the coverage of the Affordable Care Act that will be hurt by this."

Haseley is referring to a portion of the bill that repeals taxes for the Affordable Care Act from high-income people, drug companies and insurers. Trump said under the new plan, premiums and deductibles will go down.

Pete Couladis, the Athens County Republican Chair, said he is glad the bill is gaining traction six weeks after an earlier version of the bill backed by Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan failed.

"I think overall they're going in the right direction,” Couladis said. "(With the Affordable Care Act,) there were a lot of people complaining … It's just becoming a disaster. … The longer we wait, the worse it's getting because a lot of these things are kicking in after two or three years so it's gotten worse with time."

After a narrow passage in the House with a 217-213 vote, the bill must now pass through the Senate, where it is expected to be met with uncertainty and many changes. 20 Republicans joined Democrats to vote no on the bill in the House.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, represents Athens County as part of the 15th district. Stivers was among the 217 to vote in favor of the bill.

"This is a first step in fixing the issues of the high out-of-pocket costs of health care premiums and the bureaucracy of the ACA, though it is not a perfect bill," Stivers said in a statement regarding the bill. "As the bill goes to the Senate and continues in the legislative process, I hope it will continue to improve to provide affordable access to quality care for the American people."


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