WEST MICHIGAN -- The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on a health care bill Thursday that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Tension is tightening on Capitol Hill as President Trump and Republican leadership makes a last-minute push for support. If the bill ends up being signed by the president in its current form, it could change health coverage for millions of Americans.
Constituents across West Michigan voiced their concerns to their Congressmen Wednesday ahead of the vote.
Protesters gathered outside of Rep. Fred Upton's office in downtown Kalamazoo. The dozens in the crowd called for Upton to vote against the bill. Upton is expected to vote for it.
"Without health insurance, people die," protester Jenn Strebs with Pro Kzoo said. "In this district under Rep. Fred Upton 43,000 people - over 8,900 children - are expected to lose their insurance. It's immoral."
The Congressional Budget Office predicted that if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passes in its current form then 24 million Americans will lose coverage over the span of a decade, including many low-income and older people.
"As a senior citizen in this community, I'm concerned about keeping my own health care coverage," said protester Kevin Tracey. He's concerned about losing his coverage.
"There are a lot of people threatened to lose their health care," said protester Anna Neidrick. "We want Upton to represent his constituents, and tell the administration what we want."
Upton gave this statement to FOX 17:
“This has not been easy, but as I’ve listened to folks on all sides of this debate one thing is clear: Obamacare has not delivered on countless promises. Clearly, the current system is not working for many. It’s time to fix our healthcare system in a responsible way.To ensure no one has the rug pulled out from under them, our legislation provides a stable transition period for those currently enrolled in Obamacare and for states like Michigan that expanded Medicaid.We deny insurance companies the ability to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions and allow young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26. We also expand health savings accounts, and encourage small employers to band together to provide health insurance to their employees. All while eliminating the individual and employer mandate penalties and harmful Obamacare taxes such as the medical device tax.I also believe the American people deserve an open and transparent debate on these issues. I will continue to work with local leaders, patients, healthcare providers, our governors, and all others wanting to be constructive as we move forward in this process.”
Congressman Huizenga is also expected to vote for the AHCA. He held a town hall on Facebook Wednesday, where he said the ACA needs to be changed to save Medicaid and Medicare for the future.
"I don't think you can save [Obamacare]. It's not salvageable. It's making us go broke," Huizenga said on Facebook. "So many promises made that haven't come to fruition."
Huizenga says he's interested in keeping a few elements of the ACA, such as barring insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions.
At least 22 House Republicans say they're going to vote against the bill, including Rep. Justin Amash. He says the AHCA repackages Obamacare and avoids meaningful reform. He routinely voices his disapproval of the bill on Twitter:
Governor Rick Snyder warned Michigan's delegation that the bill could hurt nearly 2 million residents in Michigan's Medicaid program if signed into law, and end the expansion of coverage to more than 650,000 people.