The last Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act sent a jolt through the race to replace Tom Price in Congress. And the latest attempt is again exposing a stark divide between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff on healthcare policy.
House Speaker Paul Ryan planned a vote Thursday on the bill to scale back vast sections of Obamacare after adding $8 billion to the measure to help cover insurance costs for people with preexisting conditions – a sticking point that led many Republicans to bolt earlier this week.
Handel said in a statement Thursday she would support the measure after signaling last week that she was "extremely troubled" with a provision that would have exempted members of Congress from the changes. That loophole has been closed in the latest version of the legislation.
“Obamacare is collapsing. It is important that we not let the perfect be the enemy of the good," said Handel. "Today’s vote is the first step in a long process. I remain committed to working toward a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare that works for all Americans.”
The measure faces stiff opposition from Democrats, healthcare providers and even some Senate Republicans who worry it does too little to protect people with preexisting conditions who otherwise would struggle to find affordable insurance. Ossoff echoed those concerns in an interview on Wednesday.
“The latest draft that I’m aware of is significantly worse than the American Health Care Act precisely because it does even less to protect those with preexisting conditions,” Ossoff said. “And those are children and families here in Georgia who need to be able to get affordable health insurance despite a preexisting condition.”
He later said in a statement that he "strongly" opposes the bill, adding: "This bill puts Georgians' lives at risk. Congress should put aside partisan politics and work to make affordable insurance and quality care available to all Americans."
The rift has particular resonance in Georgia’s 6th District, a conservative-leaning swath of Atlanta’s norther suburbs long represented by Tom Price. As Trump’s new health secretary, Price is the point-man to implement any plan that made it through Congress.
The district, which spans from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County, has been in GOP control for decades and sent Price back to Congress every two years by double-digit margins. But Donald Trump’s narrow victory in the district in November's presidential race gives Democrats hope they can flip the seat.