Florida Republicans divided over Obamacare replacement
WASHINGTON — Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ron DeSantis cut different profiles in the Republican Party, a veteran with moderate leanings and a relative newcomer who is deeply conservative, but together they represent the threat facing the GOP plan to ditch the Affordable Care Act.
Both oppose the legislation, which House Speaker Paul Ryan is pushing through despite growing resistance from factions within the party.
Ros-Lehtinen, of Miami, says the plan goes too far. "Too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their health care," she said. DeSantis, of Palm Coast, says it doesn't go far enough. "By retaining the core features of Obamacare, the American Health Care Act fails to address the escalating cost of health insurance."
Ryan cannot afford to lose many votes like these and other Florida Republicans dislike the plan for similar reasons. Still others offer measured support or refuse to comment, a reticence that highlights the challenge of turning a seven-year campaign against Obamacare into reality.
"The framework bill is far from perfect," said Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, who represents a swing district on the east coast and has faced angry constituents at town halls. "The only way we can fix the failures of Obamacare is through a fully transparent process that engages voices all across the country to revise and improve upon this plan."
The stakes escalated this week when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the proposal would result in 14 million fewer people with health care coverage in 2018 and 24 million by 2026. Many would be older Americans as the plan drives up premiums to the point they would drop coverage, no longer facing the Obamacare tax penalty for doing so.
That hits hard in Florida, which has been a leading state for Obamacare, some 1.7 million people, and therefore could experience the biggest rise in the uninsured if the American Health Care Act is adopted, experts say.