By Anna Gustafson
Hundreds of thousands of residents from northeast Queens would be negatively affected by the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote last week to repeal the sweeping health-care reform that became law last year, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) said.
The House voted 245-189 for the repeal, including every Republican House member and three Democrats. No New York representative voted for it and Democrats have widely criticized the move, which they say would remove coverage for millions of Americans but which Republicans have said is necessary to control health-care costs.
“I’m not just voting no, I’m voting heck no,” Ackerman said of the bill. “Republicans and Democrats should be working together to figure out how to make things better. You don’t make things better by taking away these critical and necessary health benefits.”
While the House passed the measure, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he does not plan to bring the bill for a vote in the Senate. In the unlikely case that the bill made its way past the Democratic Senate, President Barack Obama would not be expected to sign the bill since health care reform was a major component of his campaign and a feat for his administration.
The health-care law approved last year was designed to provide health insurance for more than 30 million Americans, in part by expanding Medicaid and providing federal subsidies to allow Americans who could not previously afford coverage to buy private insurance.
“We’re committing an immoral act by repealing the health-care law,” Ackerman said.
If the repeal nullified the health-care law, as many as 311,000 — which includes up to 37,000 children — of Ackerman’s constituents could be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, according to the Queens lawmaker. Ackerman’s district covers northeast Queens, including Bayside, Douglaston, Fresh Meadows, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck and Whitestone and portions of Nassau County on Long Island.
About 69,000 residents in his district who received health care because of the reform law would lose their insurance, the legislator said.
Up to 14,200 small businesses in his district could lose their tax credits for providing health care, according to Ackerman
“We’ve been hearing from small businesses who are very, very concerned,” Ackerman said.
About 2,400 college students and graduates in Ackerman’s coverage area would no longer be covered by their parents’ health plan until they are 26 years old, according to the legislator.
Many other Queens legislators also slammed the House bill, including Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights.)
“Throughout the more than yearlong debate over health-care reform, Republicans never offered an alternative plan of their own,” Weiner said. “Now, they pass a bill to repeal health care and instead of offering up their own proposal, they say, ‘Let’s have the committees try to figure this all out.’”
Republicans have formed a committee to look into how to change health care, including what House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said were efforts to lower health-care premiums and reform the medical liability system.
“The American people deserve a thorough and forward-looking discussion of the health-care law’s impact on our economy and how best to replace it with reforms that reflect their priorities,” Boehner said in a statement.
Crowley said on the floor before the vote that he was vehemently opposed to the repeal.
“This is called the Harry Houdini health strategy,” Crowley said. “Now you have health insurance, now you don’t. This bill is clearly wrong.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.