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With a postponed House vote on the GOP health care bill, Utah's representatives all Republicans expressed wavering, uncertain or evasive support for the measure that would replace Obamacare.
Since its release on March 6, the legislation has been dogged by criticisms from both Democrats and far-right conservatives as it moved toward an expedited vote that leaders predicted would pass. That changed Thursday as 37 Republican congressional members signaled their intent to vote against the bill, effectively killing any chance it would have passed. It was pulled without a set date for revisiting it, though President Donald Trump has demanded a vote Friday.
While Utah's four representatives aren't among those dug in against the bill, they weren't free of reservations and doubt.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz leaned toward a "yes" vote, though he suggested, "I have the right to change my mind."
"I want to see the final product," he added. "From what I have seen, I really do like it."
The Republican plan meant to fulfill persistent calls by the party to "repeal and replace" Obamacare retains several provisions from the officially titled Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature health plan passed in 2010, including allowing parents to keep their children on their plans until age 26 and requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
The GOP plan would slash subsidies that low-income individuals use to pay for insurance in favor of age-based refundable tax credits. Instead of charging a tax fine for not having insurance, the proposal would allow carriers to add a 30 percent premium surcharge for those who drop coverage for a few months and later look to re-enter the market.
The plan has been open to revisions in recent days particularly focused on insurance for older Americans not yet covered by Medicare to appeal to moderate GOP members. Meanwhile, more conservative representatives have repeatedly met with White House staff to negotiate the terms of the plan. For many, those conversations have ended in frustration.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, did not disclose how he would have voted had the American Health Care Act bill come up Thursday. Spokesman Lee Lonsberry said Bishop "will continue to consider his vote as he looks for a system that will allow for quality and affordable health care."
Bishop does stand resolute, Lonsberry assured, in that Obamacare "must be changed this year."
Rep. Mia Love has previously signaled support for the bill and met with President Donald Trump to discuss changes. Her stance was less committal Thursday, when she noted in a statement that she looks "forward to supporting a plan that addresses costs and makes good on my promise to help Utah families."
While it's "still a work in progress," Love has favored the GOP plan for eliminating the mandate to purchase insurance.
Removing the fee that penalizes people for not signing up, though, could lead to a slew of healthy individuals and low-income people opting out of coverage which could raise the cost for those who do purchase a health care plan. Analyses released by the Congressional Budget Office predict that 24 million fewer people would have coverage in 10 years under the GOP plan than were Obamacare to remain in place.
Still, Love denounced the current health care law as "unsustainable" and suggests it has "been hurting Utah families and small businesses for years by saddling them with new mandates and regulations, tax hikes and skyrocketing premiums."
Rep. Chris Stewart said though there is room for review with the bill, he would have voted for it.
"I think it's important for the health care bill to pass," he said. "Republicans promised the American people that we would repeal the ACA and propose something better. I think this bill does that."
Tribune reporter Thomas Burr contributed to this report.