Citing ‘too many’ left uninsured, Miami Republican opposes GOP health plan

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represents Florida’s 27th district, which as of January had the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represents Florida’s 27th district, which as of January had the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country. For the Miami Herald

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to vote against the House GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, becoming the first Florida Republican to reject the legislation outright.

“After studying the impact of this proposed legislation on my district and speaking with many of my constituents, I have decided to vote no on the bill as currently written,” she said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “The bill’s consequences for South Florida are clear: too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their healthcare.”

Republicans have a plan to replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has some harsh critiques for it. But at the same time, conservative Republicans have some harsh critiques for the Congressional B

Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which includes Southeast Miami-Dade County, had the largest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country —about 96,300 — as of January, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop coverage by 2018 under the proposed American Health Care Act, which has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

With her opposition, Ros-Lehtinen is breaking with fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who last week voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee. Both lawmakers represent Democratic-leaning districts won by Hillary Clinton.

Curbelo hasn’t commented on the CBO report. On Monday, American Action Network, a Republican political group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan, started airing TV ads in Miami to give Curbelo cover for his support.

The third Miami Republican in the House, Mario Diaz-Balart, is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report and has some “concerns,” his spokeswoman said.

Some Florida Republicans have questioned the House plan on conservative grounds, arguing it remains too interventionist in its approach to the insurance market. Others have said it’s a good first step that still needs work.

“When it gives this number of all the people that are going to be uninsured, remember, they are saying that because without the mandate, they are estimating that a lot of people are not going to buy insurance by their own choice,” Sen. Marco Rubio told a Pensacola radio station Tuesday. “Not that it won’t be available, except they’ll choose not to buy it because they don't have to. They’ll want to spend it on something else. That’s a significant percentage of the numbers that they’re calling out as being uninsured. That said, I have some problems with that bill and I’m going through it every single day.”

Florida Democrats have universally opposed the plan.

“It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” Sen. Bill Nelson said.

Ros-Lehtinen is still not a fan of the existing law, but she said its replacement needs to have bipartisan support — and be more humane.

“I voted to repeal Obamacare many times because it was not the right fix for our broken healthcare system and did not live up to its promise to the American people, but this plan is not the replacement South Florida needs,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We should work together to write a bipartisan bill that works for our community and our nation without hurting the elderly and disadvantaged among us.”

Tampa Bay Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.

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