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Congressman Al Lawson

Representing the 5th District of Florida

Sunshine State News: Florida Delegation Weighs In on GOP's Alternative to Obamacare

March 8, 2017
In The News

As Republicans offer legislation to repeal and replace the healthcare law championed by former President Barack Obama, the Florida delegation is starting to weigh in on the proposal.

The legislation backed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has drawn fire from the right, including groups like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Heritage Foundation for being “Obamacare lite” with the support of some Republican senators, including U.S. Sens.  Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.  Other Republicans in the Senate are balking at it for not ensuring the Medicaid expansion set up in Obama’s law will continue.

Most Republicans in the Florida delegation have kept a low profile on the attempt to replace and repeal Obamacare. However, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which helped shape the law, has gone to bat for it.

Bilirakis took to the House floor on Tuesday to advocate for Ryan‘s efforts.

“In recent weeks, I held three town hall meetings and a roundtable discussion about health care in my district,” Bilirakis said. “Hundreds of constituents attended, and altogether I spent more than ten hours listening to folks. The best ideas come from the people, and I feel it is my duty as a representative to hear my constituents’ input.

“The American Health Care Act reflects what I’ve heard from patients, families, doctors, and many others over the past eight years,” Bilirakis added. “Our bill will lower costs, increase choices, and give patients greater control of their health care. It strengthens Medicaid, and helps middle-income Americans gain access to affordable coverage.

“It also protects those with pre-existing conditions, and allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26,” he continued. “Most importantly, this legislation is moving through Congress in an open and transparent manner.

“I invite the people of Florida’s 12th District to read and share the American Health Care Act at ‘ReadTheBill.GOP’,” Bilirakis said in conclusion.

But while Bilirakis has been busy pushing Ryan’s alternative to Obamacare, most other Florida Republicans on Capitol Hill have been publicly silent on it. Democrats from the Sunshine State have been more active on the issue, taking aim at Ryan’s proposal.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., has waded in to the fray. On Tuesday, Lawson made his case against Ryan’s efforts.

“The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is an exercise in smoke and mirrors,” Lawson insisted. “This proposal would give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans while burdening hard working families with higher health care costs. The Republican plan allows for soaring new health care costs for our seniors and shortens the life of the Medicare Trust Fund, endangering seniors and disabled Americans who depend on Medicaid coverage. This is completely unacceptable for Floridians.

“We need to hear from the Congressional Budget Office about what this bill would really mean in real numbers,” Lawson continued. “The American people deserve to understand what Republicans are trying to do to their health care. I will continue to fight to ensure that Floridians with pre-existing conditions don’t have to worry about losing their health care, and that young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, and that we are doing all we can to make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans, not just a select few.”

Lawson also teamed up with fellow Democrats on the House Small Business Committee in sending a letter to U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oreg., the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, urging the GOP majority to delay efforts to repeal Obama’s healthcare law.

Several other Democrats from the Sunshine State have also opposed Ryan's efforts with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy joining Lawson on the letter to Brady and Walden and others like U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz taking aim at the GOP's proposal.