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Donald Trump to Capitol in last-ditch lobbying for health care bill

President Donald Trump is rallying support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers at the Capitol, two days before the House plans a climactic vote that poses an important early test for his presidency. Top House Republicans unveiled revisions to their bill in hopes of nailing down support.

At a rally Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump underscored what he called “the crucial House vote.”

“This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare,” he said of repealing former President Barack Obama‘s landmark law, a GOP goal since its 2010 enactment. “We’re going to do it.”

 Trump’s closed-door meeting with House Republicans was coming as party leaders released 43 pages worth of changes to a bill whose prospects remain dicey. Their proposals were largely aimed at addressing dissent that their measure would leave many older people with higher costs.

Included was an unusual approach: language paving the way for the Senate, if it chooses, to make the bill’s tax credit more generous for people age 50-64. Details in the documents released were initially unclear, but one GOP lawmaker and an aide said the plan sets aside $85 billion over 10 years for that purpose.

The leaders’ proposals would accelerate the repeal of tax increases Obama imposed on higher earners, the medical industry and others to this year instead of 2018. It would be easier for some people to deduct medical expenses from their taxes.

Older and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries would get larger benefits. But it would also curb future growth of the overall Medicaid program, which helps low earners afford medical coverage, and let states impose work requirements on some recipients. Additional states could not join the 31 that opted to expand Medicaid to more beneficiaries under Obama’s law, the Affordable Care Act.

In a bid to cement support from upstate New Yorkers, the revisions would also stop that state from passing on over $2 billion a year in Medicaid costs to counties. The change was pushed by Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s first congressional supporters. Local officials have complained the practice overburdens their budgets.

Republican support teetered last week when a nonpartisan congressional analysis projected the measure would strip 24 million people of coverage in a decade. The Congressional Budget Office also said the bill would cause huge out-of-pocket increases for many lower earners and people aged 50 to 64.

Democrats have opposed the GOP repeal effort. They tout Obama’s expansion of coverage to 20 million additional people and consumer-friendly coverage requirements it imposed on insurers, including abolishing annual and lifetime coverage limits and forcing them to insure seriously ill people.

The GOP bill would dismantle Obama’s requirements that most people buy policies and that larger companies cover workers. Federal subsidies based largely on peoples’ incomes and insurance premiums would end, and a Medicaid expansion to 11 million more low-income people would disappear.

The Republican legislation would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills based chiefly on age, and open-ended federal payments to help states cover Medicaid costs would be cut. Insurers could charge older consumers five times the premiums they charge younger people instead of Obama’s 3-1 limit, and would boost premiums 30 percent for those who let coverage lapse.

House approval would give the legislation much-needed momentum as it moves to the Senate, which Republicans control 52-48 but where five Republicans have expressed opposition. Trump used Monday’s trip to single out perhaps the measure’s most vociferous foe — Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul.

“He’s a good guy,” Trump said of one 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination. “And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do till this happens.”

Enactment of the health care bill would clear the way for Congress to move to revamping the tax code and other GOP priorities. Defeat would wound Trump two months into his administration and raise questions about his ability to win support from his own party moving forward.

Among the disgruntled were GOP lawmakers in the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, though the strength of their opposition was unclear. The group has seemed to have around 40 members, but that number may be lower now and some have expressed support or an open mind for the bill.

Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an outspoken opponent, said the group was not taking a formal position on the measure. That could indicate that a significant fraction of its members were not willing to vow “no” votes.

Meadows said he believes the House will reject the bill without major changes.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

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House Democrats demand Rick Scott speak up on CBO’s scoring of GOP health care plan

Since the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican health care plan would raise the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott has been silent.

Florida House Democrats are now calling him out for his sudden reluctance to weigh in on a subject he’s never been shy about talking about before.

The governor has been a major critic of the Affordable Care Act and traveled to Washington last week to meet with President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, and House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the American Health Care Act.

Scott told reporters later he was “encouraged” about the Act, adding that it was still a “work in progress.”

But after the CBO came out with their score card earlier this week that said that the GOP plan would raise the number of uninsured to 24 million over a decade and could have a huge impact on Florida’s Medicaid program, the governor has been silent.

Florida House Democrats now say it’s time for him to speak up.

“Rather than acting as a leader, the Governor took the path of a typical politician and ducked the question entirely,” says House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. “If Governor Scott isn’t prepared to defend ‘Trumpcare,’ he at least owes Floridians an explanation about what exactly he’s been discussing with Republican leadership during his taxpayer funded trips to Washington DC.”

“Trumpcare would rip the rug out from under the millions of Floridians who have gained access to quality, affordable health care under the ACA,” says Coral Gables Rep. Daisy Baez. “This would be incredibly harmful to the overall health and well-being of all Floridians, and they deserve to know where Governor Scott stands on this issue.”

Democrats note that Florida leads the nation in those finding coverage through the insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, with over 1.6 million Floridians signing up during this year’s open enrollment period. They also not that the plan will be financed in part by cutting $880 billion to Medicaid, which could have a huge impact on states like Florida, which opted not to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

“Florida’s Medicaid system is already lacking the resources necessary to provide the level of care our citizens deserve, and these proposed cuts would be devastating for our state’s working families,” said Miami Rep. Nick Duran. “I would encourage the Governor to consider carefully how many Floridians stand to lose from the proposed billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicaid program.”

A former health care executive before entering the political stage, Scott savaged the ACA even before it was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010, and his criticisms have never stopped.

“Other than President Obama and a few stragglers, everyone now realizes that Obamacare was a terrible notion,” Scott wrote in an op-ed in USA Today last fall. “It was sold on a lie. It was invented by liberal academic theorists who have no interaction with real families and businesses and therefore it doesn’t work.”

“This is no time for Republicans to go wobbly or get weak in the knees about repealing Obamacare,” the governor wrote in another column for CNN.com in January. “If we refuse to roll back the welfare state, what real purpose do we serve?”

However, a number of congressional Republicans, including Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are expressing serious doubts about the House proposal in the wake of the CBO report.

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House GOP health bill facing fresh House committee test

The White House and Republican leaders are talking to rank-and-file lawmakers about revising the GOP health care overhaul, hoping to keep a rebellion by conservatives and moderates from snowballing and imperiling the party’s showpiece legislation.

Four days after a congressional report projected the bill would pry coverage from millions of voters, signs of fraying GOP support for the legislation were showing. The measure would strike down much of former President Barack Obama‘s 2010 overhaul and reduce the federal role, including financing, for health care consumers and is opposed uniformly by Democrats.

In a fresh test of Republicans’ willingness to embrace the legislation, the House Budget Committee was considering the measure Thursday. Republicans expressed confidence the bill would be approved, but the vote could be tight. The panel can’t make significant changes but was expected to endorse non-binding, suggested changes to nail down votes.

The bill would eliminate the tax penalty that pressures people to buy coverage and the federal subsidies that let millions afford it, replacing them with tax credits that are bigger for older people. It would cut Medicaid, repeal the law’s tax increases on higher earning Americans and require 30 percent higher premiums for consumers who let coverage lapse.

Overt GOP opposition grew after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected Monday that the legislation would push 24 million Americans off coverage in a decade and shift out-of-pocket costs toward lower income, older people. Obama’s law has provided coverage to around 20 million additional people

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday that leaders could now make “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the legislation. But he declined to commit to bringing the measure to the House floor next week, a schedule Republican leaders have repeatedly said they intended to keep.

At a late rally in Nashville Wednesday, President Donald Trump said: “We’re going to arbitrate, we’re all going to get together, we’re going to get something done.”

Vice President Mike Pence met with House GOP lawmakers and pressed them to unite behind the legislation.

“‘It’s our job to get it out of here and get it to the Senate,'” Pence told Republicans, according to Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. That would let Trump pressure “Democrats in these red states to come on board,'” Ross said, referring to Republican-leaning states where Democratic senators face re-election next year.

But insurgents still abound.

Conservatives want to end Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to 11 million additional low-income people next year, not 2020 as the bill proposes. They say a GOP proposed tax credit to help people pay medical costs is too generous, and they want to terminate all of Obama’s insurance requirements, including mandatory coverage of specified services like drug counseling.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, continued pushing for changes. He claimed at least 21 members of his group would oppose the measure as written; the bill would fail if 22 Republicans join all Democrats in opposing it.

But underscoring the push-pull problem GOP leaders face in winning votes, moderates feel the tax credits are too stingy, especially for low earners and older people. They oppose accelerating the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion and are unhappy with long-term cuts the measure would inflict on the entire program.

Terminating the Medicaid expansion in 2020 and not 2018 “is sacrosanct to me,” said moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.

In a new complication, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure lacked the votes to pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a precarious 52-48 majority. That left House members angry over being asked to take a politically risky vote for legislation likely to be altered.

Moderates “don’t like the idea of taking a vote in the House that may go nowhere in the Senate,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

Amid the maneuvering, a federal report said more than 12 million people have signed up for coverage this year under the very statute that Republicans want to repeal. That figure underscored the potential political impact of the GOP’s next move.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Joe Henderson: ‘Shy’ Rick Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t been shy about sharing his feelings on the Affordable Care Act. Like any good Republican, he hates it. He wants it to go away.

Now that Republicans have a legitimate proposal on the table to replace Obamacare, though, Scott has gone into stealth mode on the subject. In an Associated Press story, the governor did the Rick Scott Shuffle when asked for his reaction to the plan now being debated intensely in Washington.

Scott said he was glad there is “good conversation” happening on the subject. Not exactly a stop-the-presses comment.

He even met recently with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pushing a plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance.

Would the governor like to let us mere mortals in on what was discussed? People in Florida will be greatly affected by whatever finally becomes law, especially if it has a significant impact on Medicaid.

Florida depends heavily on federal money for Medicaid funding, and under the plan being discussed more than 4 million residents here would see their benefits reduced. That probably suits budget hawks in the state House just fine, but wouldn’t be good for many of the state’s elderly and low-income residents.

That’s where Scott needs to pipe up on this subject. In 2014, remember, he went to war (and lost) with the House over Medicaid expansion. Scott pushed for it; now-Speaker Richard Corcoran was intractably against.

Given his background as a hospital administrator before he went into politics, there are few people in the state better versed on health insurance than Scott. He could help frame the debate if he chose.

He certainly hasn’t been shy about making his opinions known recently on other subjects. He has been outspoken about his trying to save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. But now that the health care debate has intensified, we get crickets from the governor.

Curious.

 

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American Action Network targets Carlos Curbelo in new ad

The American Action Network has begun a new $1.5 million issue advocacy campaign to persuade a group of GOP lawmakers to fight for passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The ad highlights key elements of the plan and encourages lawmakers to deliver on their health care promise.

Over the next two weeks, the ads will air nationally on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and in 15 congressional districts nationwide, including in Miami, featuring CD 26 Representative Carlos Curbelo, who voted for the AHCA last week in a House Committee.

The ads are also airing in the congressional districts of House Speaker Paul Ryan, California legislators Darrell Issa, David Valadao, Jeff Denham and Kevin McCarthy. Colorado’s Mike Coffman, Nebraska’s Don Bacon, Iowa’s Rod Blum and David Young, Oregon’s Greg Walden, Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, Texas’ Kevin Brady and Will Hurd and Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, many (if not all) are in 2018 competitive districts.

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Vern Buchanan to host town hall meeting on March 18

Vern Buchanan has never been shy about holding town hall meetings since being elected to Congress a decade ago, but the fact that he hasn’t done so yet in 2017 had caused some consternation from some local groups.

Those concerns should be allayed now that Buchanan has announced that he will be holding a town hall meeting on Saturday, March 18 on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota “to discuss health care, tax cuts and any other issue his constituents want to raise.”

It will take place at 11 a.m. at the Sudakoff Center auditorium, located at 5845 General Dougher Place.

“With Congress moving quicker than expected on health care I wanted to make sure my constituents had a chance to be heard and voice their opinion,” Buchanan said. “I’ve held 74 town halls over the years and look forward to hearing what people have to say.”

While many of his colleagues were getting an earful from angry constituents during the congressional break last month, Buchanan was in the Middle East, meeting with officials in Israel, Afghanistan and other nations to discuss the fight against terrorism.

No doubt much of the town hall will be centered around the just House Republican health care plan, which is apparently on a fast track.

Two House committees are scheduled to mark up and vote on the bill on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after its introduction and before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to fully review it and project its impact on the deficit and the number of Americans who will gain or lose health insurance.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he hopes to vote on the bill sometime next month, though with more Republicans voicing concerns about the legislation, that timetable may be in jeopardy.

 

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House GOP releases bill replacing Barack Obama health care overhaul

House Republicans on Monday released their long-awaited plan for unraveling former President Barack Obama‘s health care law, a package that would scale back the government’s role in health care and likely leave more Americans uninsured.

House committees planned to begin voting on the 123-page legislation Wednesday, launching what could be the year’s defining battle in Congress and capping a seven-year Republican effort to repeal the 2010 law. Though GOP leaders expect their measure to win the backing of the Trump administration, divisions remain and GOP success is by no means ensured.

The plan would repeal the statute’s unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. It would replace income-based subsidies the law provides to help millions of Americans pay premiums with age-based tax credits that may be less generous to people with low incomes. Those payments would phase out for higher-earning people.

The bill would continue Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to additional low-earning Americans until 2020. After that, states adding Medicaid recipients would no longer receive the additional federal funds the statute has provided.

More significantly, Republicans would overhaul the federal-state Medicaid program, changing its open-ended federal financing to a limit based on enrollment and costs in each state.

In perhaps their riskiest political gamble, the plan is expected to cover fewer than the 20 million people insured under Obama’s overhaul, including many residents of states carried by President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Republicans said they don’t have official estimates on those figures yet. But aides from both parties and nonpartisan analysts have said they expect coverage numbers to be lower.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the bill would “drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.” He added, “This unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare.”

But besides solid opposition from Democrats, there were signals galore that Republican leaders faced problems within their own party, including from conservatives complaining that the measure isn’t aggressive enough in repealing parts of Obama’s law.

“It still looks like Obamacare-lite to me,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among three Senate conservatives who have criticized the emerging GOP bill. “It’s going to have to be better.”

The Republican tax credits — ranging from $2,000 to $14,000 for families — would be refundable, meaning even people with no tax liability would receive the payments. Conservatives have objected that that feature creates a new entitlement program the government cannot afford.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wouldn’t rule out changes in the measure by his chamber, where significant numbers of moderate Republicans have expressed concerns that the measure could leave too many voters without coverage.

“The House has the right to come up with what it wants to and present it to the Senate by passing it. And we have a right to look it over and see if we like it or don’t,” Hatch told reporters.

Underscoring those worries, four GOP senators released a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shortly before the bill was unveiled.

They complained that an earlier, similar draft of the measure “does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states.” Signing the letter were Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia opted to expand Medicaid coverage under the law and accept beefed-up federal spending for the program. Around half those states have GOP governors, who are largely reluctant to see that spending curtailed.

In another feature that could alienate moderate Republicans, the measure would block for one year federal payments to Planned Parenthood, the women’s health organization long opposed by many in the party because it provides abortions. It also forbids people receiving tax credits to help pay premiums to buy coverage under a plan that provides abortions.

Republicans said they’d not yet received official cost estimates on the overall bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That office’s projections on the bill’s price tag and the number of people the measure would cover could be key in winning over recalcitrant Republicans, or making them even harder to win over.

A series of tax increases on higher-earning people, the insurance industry and others used to finance the Obama overhaul’s coverage expansion would be repealed as of 2018.

In a last-minute change to satisfy conservative lawmakers, business and unions, Republicans dropped a plan pushed by Ryan to impose a first-ever tax on the most generous employer-provided health plans.

Popular consumer protections in the Obama law would be retained, such as insurance safeguards for people with pre-existing medical problems, and parents’ ability to keep young adult children on their insurance until age 26.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Charlie Crist demands more transparency from Donald Trump

Charlie Crist says “count him in” on investigations into President Donald Trump’s possible conflicts of interest and ethical violations.

The St. Petersburg Democrat supports a Resolution of Inquiry put forward by New York Democrat Jerald Nadler, which calls on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide Congress with all information from any investigations into the president.

Nadler’s resolution bypasses standard procedures of how bills work through the House of Representatives. It’s written in a way that the resolution must be brought to the House floor for a vote within 14 days, if not reported by the relevant committee.

Critics contend that Trump has violated the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which bars him from benefiting (either financially or otherwise) from his extensive business dealings abroad.

“As public officials, we have a responsibility to promote transparency and provide oversight and accountability to ensure the public’s trust in our government, and that the government is working in their best interests,” Crist says in a statement. “This administration is breaking with precedent in ways that raise serious concerns and threaten the health of our democracy.”

“The American people deserve answers to the questions being raised, and Congress has the power to require them. Let’s get to work.”

Crist is backing an effort led by New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr. for Congress to use its authority to make Trump’s tax returns available to ensure no conflicts of interest exist.

House Republicans have blocked the effort Monday night.

Pascrell also co-sponsored two bills (H.R. 356 and H.R. 530) that aim to investigate, expose, and deter foreign influence in the American election process.

Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry follows two formal requests to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte — the first dated Nov. 30, 2016, and a second Jan. 24, 2017 — asking for hearings into federal conflict-of-interest and ethical provisions that may apply to the president. They also call for an investigation of the legal structure and practices of the “trust” managed by Trump’s sons.

In a letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan Jan. 12, Nadler is asking for any information needed to evaluate Trump’s financial entanglements for conflicts of interest and constitutional violations, along with details of any uncovered ties between Russia and the president, his advisers or businesses.

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GOP proposed health reforms care would ’cause chaos,’ Kathy Castor says

Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor says that a leaked GOP alternative plan for healthcare would have “dire consequences for families here in the state of Florida.”

A draft bill detailing Republican plans to begin repealing and replacing many facets of the ACA would provide expanded tax credits and health savings accounts for individuals while reducing federal spending on tax subsidies and Medicaid and practically eliminating both the current employer and individual mandate to provide and carry health insurance, according to NBC News.

“The changes that the Republicans have put on the table would really cause chaos,” Castor said on Monday at a news conference held in front of the Tampa Family Health Center clinic on Dale Mabry Highway.

The purpose of the event was to announce that Kathy Palmer, a Tampa resident currently on the Affordable Care Act, will be Castor’s guest at President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night  Many of Castor’s Democratic House colleagues have also invited members of the public whose lives could be deleteriously affected by losing their care if the ACA is repealed as their guest of honor.

Palmer said that she was hospitalized at Tampa Community Hospital in December because of extreme chest pains. After a series of tests determined she was actually okay, she said she was dumbfounded when she was hit with a $70,000 bill.

“Because I had the Affordable Care Act, I only have to pay $179 of it. I can afford that. This is the only way I can afford insurance,” she said, adding that the two companies she works part-time at are “really small businesses, and they’re struggling too.”

Castor dissected the leaked plans for health care reform, popping a balloon into every one of them as being unworthy as a successor to the ACA.

She dismissed the idea of providing certain high risk pools for the state, saying that Florida tried that in the 80’s and 90’s to little success because “it’s very difficult to commit to controlling the costs.”

The tentative plans also include offering Health Saving Accounts to members of the public, which Castor says are fine if one has the money to put in a savings account. “A lot of folks in this community are working paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “They don’t have the ability to put a couple of hundred dollars away from every paycheck and an illness or a broken arm is not going to wait for you to save up to $10,000 -$20,000 in a Health Savings Account.”

Refundable tax credits also received a thumbs down from the Tampa Democrat, saying that would work out “great if you get it right after you get your tax refund, but an illness is not going to wait until your tax refund.”

While some Democrats have said they won’t consider working with Republicans on health care if the ultimate goal is to completely dismantle the ACA, Castor insisted she would “love” to be working the Republicans on possible solutions. While saying that there are plenty of different health care plans for someone in Hillsborough County to choose from, she acknowledged that there are far too many parts of the country that lack such competition.

“We’ve got to tackle that problem, ” she said. “Does that mean bringing a public option into those areas, or giving incentives to insurance companies to go into those areas? We’ve got to sort that out.”

Castor also said she would like to work with Congressional Republicans on reducing drug prices, noting that’s an issue that President Trump has repeatedly said he wants to tackle. However, she also noted, that in her decade in Congress, she’s never seen Republicans show much of an appetite for such reform.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that the House is working to bring a bill to the House floor for a vote the first week of March.

 

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Charlie Crist signs on to letter calling on GOP to refrain from cutting family planning funding

St. Petersburg Representative Charlie Crist is adding his voice to a collection of House Democrats opposing a vote scheduled this week that would ban funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations under the Title X National Family Planning Program.

“Title X-funded health centers, like Planned Parenthood, provide birth control, mammograms, cancer screenings and family planning services for millions of women across the country,” Crist said in a statement. “These attempts to restrict a woman’s access to comprehensive reproductive care – disproportionately impacting low-income women – cannot stand. We must stand up for women’s rights and the women’s health organizations that provide this much needed care.”

The letter was signed by members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Other Florida Democratic House members signing on to the letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan include Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Val Demings and Darren Soto.

The letter criticizes the GOP in the 115th Congress for several other measures, including passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which would, among other provisions,  effectively make the Hyde Amendment permanent. That’s the 1977 law that has banned any federal funding for abortions. That bill would also ban federal funding for health benefits plans that cover abortions and ban federal facilities and federal employees from providing abortions.

Throughout his political career, Crist has at times referred to himself as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but has consistently touted a pro-choice agenda since becoming a Democrat in December of 2012.

Here’s the letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan:

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We write to express our grave concern for efforts to undermine Title X family planning.  Despite promises to focus on jobs and the economy, Republicans have started the 115th Congress with a total assault on women’s choices, access to care, and economic security by:

  • Charging ahead to sabotage and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while making no promises to preserve vital protections for women;
  • Providing little to no details on their plans to replace ACA, while making a point to announce that their ACA repeal package will block access to Planned Parenthood, a high-quality, long-trusted provider of reproductive health services;
  • Rushing to impose and dramatically expand the global gag rule, harming women around the world; and
  • Advancing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act(H.R. 7) through the House, effectively banning private insurance companies from covering comprehensive reproductive health services.

Now, with their most recent effort to weaken the Title X national family planning program through the Congressional Review Act, Republicans have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to limit women’s access to vital health care.  Sadly, this includes contraception and family planning services that all women need.

For more than 40 years, Title X has served as a cornerstone of safety-net care. As the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning, Title X allows a diverse network of providers to deliver high-quality care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured individuals and to those seeking confidential care. In 2014 alone, Title X-funded clinics helped prevent approximately 904,000 unintended pregnancies, 326,000 abortions, and 439,000 unplanned births.  In addition to direct clinical care, Title X also supports critical infrastructure needs for health centers, including new medical equipment and staff training that are not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance. This infrastructure is vital to ensuring safe, quality care at health centers which serve and provide basic health services to high-need populations.

Throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations, Title X has been interpreted to prohibit state actions that block providers or classes of providers from participating in a Title X project based on factors unrelated to a provider’s qualifications to perform the required services. The networks include providers ranging from state, county, and local health departments as well as hospitals, family planning councils, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally qualified health centers and other private non-profit organizations.  In fact, in instances when states have passed laws to limit provider participation in Title X, federal courts have consistently held that those state laws are contrary to, and preempted by, federal law.

In response to a growing number of states targeting family planning providers for exclusion from key federal health programs, including Title X, the previous Administration proposed the regulation “Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients.”  The regulation, which was finalized in December 2016, helps ensure patient access to family planning services and supplies through qualified providers by reiterating that “no recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”  During the rulemaking process, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 145,000 comments, the vast majority of which supported the rule.

Women across the United States, and the men who support them, have had enough.  It is unconscionable that this common sense clarification has become a political football for members of Congress who want to limit women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care. We urge you to stand in support of women and oppose this assault on contraceptive access and care.

Sincerely,

 

 

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