Santa Barbara Congressmember Lois Capps voted against repealing the health care reform act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Capps found herself in the minority as a majority of her peers voted — by a margin of 245-189 — decisively in favor of repeal. That vote constitutes more a shot across the proverbial bow than it does legislation with any chance of survival, as Obama has already vowed to veto such a bill should it make its way out of the Senate intact. The real action will take place in the months to come over a host of measures, pushed by the Republican majority and backed by a handful of Democrats, to financially strangle health care reform by denying funding to many of the programs needed for it to be implemented.
In prepared remarks, Capps cited the case of three-year-old Gwendolyn Brooks, afflicted with a rare spinal disease. Without key protections provided by the health care reform bill, she said, Brooks’s parents could find themselves bankrupt, without coverage, or both. Brooks’s coverage has a lifetime cap of $5 million. Once that’s exceeded, the parents would need new insurance. But if health reform were repealed, the new law barring exclusion based on preexisting conditions would no longer be in effect.
Capps released estimates prepared by Democratic leadership indicating that if repeal were enacted, as many as 280,000 people now living in Capps’s 23rd District could be denied coverage based on potential preexisting conditions. Likewise, she said 16,000 businesses now receiving tax credits for providing their employees health care benefits would lose them, and estimated that as many as 86,000 more district residents could join the ranks of the uninsured if repeal is passed. Capps, along with the Democratic leadership, has cited estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office that repeal could cost the federal government an additional $230 billion over the next 10 years.
Republicans have dismissed these estimates as highly speculative, and have vowed to draft a new health care reform package that in fact protected people with preexisting conditions. In the meantime, however, they are attacking funding for health care reform on a number of fronts. This Thursday, some Republicans announced plans to stop Congress from spending any money in the next year to implement the new legislation. In addition, they’ve proposed measures to greatly restrict funding opportunities for abortions — already constrained — under health care reform. Capps, an ardent supporter of health care reform — though not necessarily the specifics of the plan passed — termed the repeal effort “shortsighted and a distraction.”