Congressional Republicans’ plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system are drawing fire in South Carolina’s special election for Congress – from Democrats and Republicans in the race.
The 10 major-party candidates in the 5th District race are mostly unhappy with the American Health Care Act, the bill that would repeal the sweeping health care legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
But candidates have different problems with the legislation, slated to be debated Thursday in the U.S. House.
The three Democrats in the race – Alexis Frank, a Rock Hill student and Army veteran; Less Murphy, an Indian Land veterans activist; and Archie Parnell, a financial services adviser from Sumter – say the proposal would be a huge step backwards for those who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
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“South Carolina voted for change, but this is not the change people would want,” Parnell said. “This would lead to higher costs, less coverage with millions more without coverage, and more money given away to insurance companies, drug companies and the rich.”
While Republicans agreed Obamacare must be repealed, they differed over whether the law should be replaced with some other federal healthcare law aimed at insuring Americans.
Some Republicans say the bill, criticized from the right as “Obamacare Lite,” doesn’t go far enough in keeping the GOP’s repeal promise.
“This is not what the American people voted for,” said former state Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill, who is unhappy the draft legislation would leave Medicaid expansion in place until 2020.
“Thank God South Carolina rejected that,” he said. “States need to have the right to put in a work (requirement) clause on recipients.”
Repeal, don’t replace
S.C. House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, R-York, gave some tentative support to the House repeal measure, while hoping to see some substantial amendments.
“This is a good first step on the path to repeal,” Pope said. “Some things that are optional, I’d like to be mandatory, like the work requirements, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Republican Tom Mullikin of Camden said he “a state-based market driven (health care) system.” And other Republicans want to see the federal government get out of health care completely.
“The 5th District wants a full repeal, and not a replacement,” said Sheri Few, a conservative education activist from Lugoff. “It is not a function of the federal government to provide health care. It’s unconstitutional ... I would return the power to the states.”
Indian Land attorney Kris Wampler agrees foregoing any replacement plan is the “constitutionalist” position.
“We have to be willing to take a position, and don’t be so concerned with the next election cycle,” Wampler said. “Let’s do what’s right.”
‘It will fuel Bernie’
Republican Ray Craig, a Clover missionary with a Clemson engineering degree, said if Republicans want any changes to stick, they have to craft a plan that can get some bipartisan support.
“With something as important as this, you don’t want to whipsaw back and forth,” Craig said. “If we ram this through, it will fuel Bernie (Sanders) and company in four years,” referring to the U.S. senator from Vermont who fired up progressives running to the left of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.
Chad Connelly, a former state GOP chairman from Newberry, agrees the process will be important to crafting a plan with broad support.
“We need to have an open, transparent process, where everybody gets to chip in,” Connelly said. “We don’t want to be in the position of the Democrats, where you have to pass the bill to see what’s in it.”
GOP leadership is planning a House vote on the bill on Thursday – which also happens to be the seventh anniversary of Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law.
“I’ve talked to some congressmen friends of mine this week, and I’m not sure they know what’s going to happen,” Connelly said.