WASHINGTON -- Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick said Sunday that he cannot support the GOP's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act "in its current form," making the Bucks County freshman the first Republican from the Philadelphia area to definitively say he would vote against the legislation as it stands now.
His position deals a blow to GOP leaders' hopes of passing their repeal of "Obamacare" through the House of Representatives as soon as Thursday. With Democrats uniformly opposed the plan, Republicans can afford to lose no more than 21 votes in the House, and their proposal has caught flak from both conservatives and moderates.
"After considering the current healthcare bill in a thorough and deliberate manner, I have concluded that, although the American Health Care Act focuses on several much-needed reforms to our healthcare system, in its current form I cannot support this legislation," Fitzpatrick said in a statement, referring to the plan crafted by Speaker Paul Ryan. "I have many concerns with this bill, and first among them is the impact on the single most important issue plaguing Bucks and Montgomery Counties, and the issue that I have made my priority in Congress: opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery."
The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage for addiction treatment, a provision which Gov. Wolf said has helped 125,000 Pennsylvanians in a state gripped by opioid abuse.
Fitzpatrick announced his stand in a post on Facebook Sunday and a 439-word statement to reporters.
His statement, however, leaves room for Fitzpatrick to support a modified version of the bill or another repeal plan. GOP leaders have said they expect changes to the existing proposal, and have been working to win over wavering centrists, particularly those from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"The Affordable Care Act is broken in many areas and desperately needs to be fixed or replaced with a system that works better for everyone," Fitzpatrick said, later adding that he is continuing to talk to Republican leaders to urge them to address his concerns. "It is important to note that this bill is one of several reform measures being considered, and many more bills will surely follow. It is incumbent upon all elected officials, at every level of government, to take our time and to get this right. Healthcare is far too important and we must not settle for anything less."
Several Republicans from the Philadelphia region have also raised concerns about the GOP plan's potential impact on their constituents and over projections that health care costs could sharply rise for the older Americans and those with low incomes.
They are seeking modifications in the bill, but none have said that they would vote against the current plan. They all support a repeal in principle, and many seem to be trying to find a way to be supportive of a goal that has motivated their party, and many of GOP voters, for years.
Democrats' Congressional campaign arm, which is targeting Fitzpatrick in next year's elections, quickly dismissed his stand as "nothing more than a self-serving political calculation designed to save his own skin."