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Republican Rep. Tom Reed On Why He Voted For GOP Health Care Plan


The House passed the Republican health care bill this week that would repeal and replace large portions of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. The bill now goes to the Senate. It was a close vote in the House. Twenty Republicans and every single Democrat voted against the bill. We go now to one of the 217 members of Congress who voted for the American Health Care Act. Congressman Tom Reed is a Republican from the Finger Lakes District of New York. Mr. Reed, thanks very much for being back with us.

TOM REED: Always a pleasure, Scott. Thanks for having me on.

SIMON: I know you have three public meetings today, so thanks for making the time. You were undecided at one point. What decided it for you?

REED: Well, we were supportive of the original bill, and then the amendments started to dribble out. And we wanted to make sure we read the text before we took an actual position on the bill. And once we read the text, I was very comfortable that this is a step in the right direction to take on the health care crisis in America.

SIMON: You read the text. You read the bill.

REED: Yeah.

SIMON: The whole bill.

REED: Yes.

SIMON: Some of your colleagues haven't, you know.

REED: I've heard reports of that, and I let all my colleagues conduct themselves whatever way they choose to conduct themselves. But, you know, it was important to read the bill, get the legislative text, work with our staff, work with the committee, resources that we have access to at the Ways and Means Committee. And once we did that, I was comfortable in that this was a step in the right direction.

SIMON: I'm just going to surmise, sir, that at your public meetings today, there are going to be a lot of people getting to their feet saying I have health care coverage. You voted to take it away from me. What do you say?

REED: No. The collapsing Affordable Care Act was a direct threat that had to be addressed. And this is a step in that direction to address it. And what we're going to work is hopefully make this bill better through the process. And also we have phase two and three that we've been talking about where I'm looking to find common ground to try to improve health care in America in a positive way, too.

SIMON: What about people with pre-existing conditions? Are you are you satisfied that they will have coverage? Because the facts so far don't seem to support that.

REED: Yeah, no, I think that that's not accurate, Scott. I mean, when you read the actual legislative text, and there's a lot of theory and misinformation being bantered around that suggests that somehow this is a direct attack that this legislation would repeal the reform of pre-existing condition. That's just not the case. What do you have is the potential theoretical state that may apply for a waiver and somehow jeopardize this. And I just don't see that happening in reality across the country and in particular in our home state of the state of New York. Knowing what our state policies are, I'm very confident that that is not a threat here in New York state.

SIMON: But are you concerned - I mean, should every American citizen have the same right to health care? I mean, do you want people from - I'll use a nominal example - from Utah flooding into New York because the state will cover certain things there that they won't in Utah? Isn't - do you see health care as a basic right for every American?

REED: Oh, I absolutely see having access to care that you can rely upon to get the care you need is something we need to have across America. But how do you do that? Can you do that with a legislative pen? That was what the Affordable Care Act was trying to mandate. And it just doesn't work. And so what you've got to do is create a marketplace, both health insurance and in health care, that allows for people to access that care in an affordable, reasonable manner.

SIMON: Are you convinced that high-risk pools are going to be able to cover people who are at risk with continuing and debilitating health conditions? I might add, both you and I have one of those.

REED: Absolutely. I would agree that high-risk pools are going to address the issue in a new way, in a little different way, than what has been done previously in high-risk pools. But also it's going to give the flexibility and innovative opportunity to states to create new products, new ways to treat these issues. And to me, that's something we should be looking forward to rather than, you know, the status quo, no-we-can't-type mindset.

SIMON: A new way but a reliable way. I mean, can you - there's lot of skepticism that these high-risk pools will do anything but make it unaffordable (ph) for people.

REED: And I've heard that skepticism, and, you know - and in Washington, you have the opportunity to talk to many experts on both sides of the issue. And all I can say is what I had before me was a choice to maintain the status quo of the Affordable Care Act and its failure and the threats that it represents the American people, or could we take a step in the right direction and go down a different path? And from my perspective, going down that different path was better for the American people.

SIMON: I have to risk a quick yes-or-no last question - do you know of a single case where a high-risk pool has worked in this country?

REED: We have looked at Maine. We've looked at others that have demonstrated some success there, so I think there's some good, basic foundation, and now we need to improve upon it.

SIMON: Thanks very much Congressman Tom Reed. And tomorrow on Weekend Edition, Senator from Michigan Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, on her party's strategy and the bill in the Senate. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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