Oklahoma’s Inhofe, Lankford uncertain on health care repeal’s future (News OK)

By Justin Wingerter

After meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday, Oklahoma’s senators remained uncertain about the prospects of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

On television and radio this week, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, repeatedly urged fellow Republicans to reach a consensus and do what many voters elected them to do.

“One of the reasons they elected this president and Congress was to bring relief from the problems of the Affordable Care Act,” Lankford said in a statement.

At the meeting, Trump urged senators to remain in Washington until they reach a deal on repealing the 2010 law. The Senate has delayed its August recess as splits among Republican senators have resulted in gridlock on the party’s longtime goal.

“I’ve been here six months,” the president said according to a transcript from the White House. “I’m ready to act, pen in hand, believe me. I’m sitting in that office. I have pen in hand.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate will vote early next week on a repeal bill that was approved by Congress in late 2015 and early 2016 but vetoed by former President Barack Obama.

Lankford and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, have not said whether they will vote for the bill. Both voted for it when it passed Dec. 3, 2015.

“He wants to do whatever he can to repeal Obamacare,” said Nicole Hager, a spokeswoman for Inhofe.

The House passed the repeal bill Jan. 6, 2016, with Oklahoma’s five members voting in favor. At the time, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said, “I believe that lawmakers have the responsibility to craft a viable patient-centered alternative to Obamacare, and given the numerous proposals already presented, I am confident that Republicans will responsibly be able to do just that.”

Republican leaders, however, have struggled to craft a repeal bill that their senators can agree upon. The Senate refused to consider a House-passed bill, the American Health Care Act, then was unable to pass its own legislation, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, after senators defected this week.

The 2015 bill, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, would increase the number of uninsured people by 17 million in the first year it took effect, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would increase to 32 million by 2026 after it is enacted, according to the CBO.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act today would be extremely reckless,” said Gene Perry, policy director of the left-leaning Oklahoma Policy Institute, “because it would take away health coverage and important consumer protections from millions of Americans.”

The repeal bill would phase out subsidies for low-income and middle-income individuals who buy insurance on a health care exchange. It would eliminate penalties on people who do not buy insurance and on employers who do not provide it. The bill would save $474 billion over 10 years, the CBO estimates.

“We would like to see a full repeal of these mandates that have really hurt access to coverage,” said Jonathan Small, president of the conservative Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs.

The bill would also eliminate taxes on medical devices and a tax on the most expensive health care plans, the so-called “Cadillac tax.” Medicaid expansion would be phased out over two years and federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be paused for a year.



Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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