8th District Congressman Mike Gallagher on Monday rejected the liberal narrative that he went into hiding after voting in favor of the Republican health care reform bill. Several members of the media complained on Twitter that they couldn’t get hold of Gallagher for comment after the vote:
— Josh Dukelow (@joshdukelow) May 5, 2017
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin then issued a news release accusing Gallagher of running from his vote:
Rep. Gallagher issued a lengthy statement after his vote, claiming to be committed “to protecting those with preexisting conditions,” but Gallagher declined to explain his vote for a bill that could price his own constituents with preexisting conditions out of health insurance.
Media Trackers received the Gallagher news release to which the DPW release refers. It is indeed lengthy:
“As the current healthcare system in America continues to break down, it’s become increasingly clear that the federal government does not know best when it comes to providing healthcare for the 323 million people in the United States. Millions of families have lost access to their preferred doctor, have had their health plan discontinued, or have had their premiums and deductibles rise so high that they’re effectively still uninsured. And while our national healthcare system was certainly broken prior to the ACA, Obamacare only exacerbated its problems. The federal government’s one-size fits all approach is failing and I believe the future of healthcare’s best path forward is through state innovation.
Lost in the national debate on the future of healthcare is the history of Wisconsin’s healthcare system. For years prior to Obamacare, Wisconsin and other states were developing their own solutions to ensure that those who needed care could receive it, took care of families with preexisting conditions and unique needs, and had their own insurance commissioners and regulators for generations. The fact that this bill allows Wisconsin the freedom to determine its own path forward is a promising first step.
During the years before Obamacare, Wisconsin was a model for how to provide health care for its citizens in an innovative way through its successful high-risk pool program. It was a state-sponsored partnership between doctors, private insurance, and patients who were unable to receive individual insurance on the private market. In speaking with Wisconsin’s Insurance Commissioner recently, he pointed out that before Obamacare ended Wisconsin’s program, it was functioning in an entirely stable, affordable and self-sufficient market without any state government supplemental funds— this is an example of what we should expect from our system today.
It’s also important to note that because Wisconsin developed its own way of expanding Medicaid coverage without using Obamacare funds, under this bill Wisconsin will have even more flexibility to cover its most vulnerable populations.
This bill gives states the ability to stabilize insurance markets by providing $130 billion to protect the most vulnerable in the individual insurance market. Additionally, the bill provides $15 billion to help states get back to a model like Wisconsin had where they can mitigate costs through high risk pools. Another $8 billion is designated in the bill for the specific purpose of helping those with pre-existing conditions find the affordable coverage they need. Additionally, I strongly believe that Washington must abide by the laws that it passes for the rest of America which is why I was an original cosponsor and supporter legislation that forces Members of Congress and their staff to abide by the provisions contained in the AHCA.
This legislation is far from perfect and I look forward to continuing the process of improving the bill as it makes its way through the U.S. Senate. Senate leaders have already assured me that the credits for low income families will be increased in the coming weeks.
This is an emotionally charged issue for many families in Northeast Wisconsin concerned about the future of their healthcare. I understand and share these concerns and believe it’s vitally important that we put healthcare on a sustainable path for the future, which must ultimately include broader reforms like driving down drug prices, increasing transparency and changing the incentive structure for doctors. I remain firm in my commitment to protecting our seniors, protecting those with preexisting conditions, and assisting those with lower incomes in Northeast Wisconsin to ensure that they have the quality care they need and deserve.”
The DPW describes a seven paragraph statement as Gallagher declining “to explain his vote.” A close examination of paragraph five would seem to challenge that contention. Gallagher offers several rationale for his yes vote:
- This bill gives states the ability to stabilize insurance markets by providing $130 billion to protect the most vulnerable in the individual insurance market.
- the bill provides $15 billion to help states get back to a model like Wisconsin had where they can mitigate costs through high risk pools.
- Another $8 billion is designated in the bill for the specific purpose of helping those with preexisting conditions find the affordable coverage they need.
Gallagher told Media Trackers Monday:
“It’s absurd (the idea that he was hiding). I issued a statement explaining my logic for voting yes. I guess I should confess that right now I am indeed outside the district, hiding at Dousman Elementary School, where I’m speaking to my godson’s kindergarten class. So, I’m sorry if my calendar doesn’t necessarily fit with the demand of the DPW.”
Gallagher also again responded to criticism that he hasn’t held in-person town hall meetings during the health care debate, where he and others believe protests are highly organized events:
“I’m just not interested in political theater, we’ve had far too much of it on both sides. I’m interested in having an honest dialogue and conversation. I’ve had dozens and dozens of constituents meetings and round tables, and open houses and forums and tele-town halls and company town halls. We’ve reached out to over 100,000 people, taking questions. I recognize some of the people…demonstrating in front of my office because I’ve met with them, individually and personally. And often times when someone requests or demands a town hall I’ll say, would you like to meet one on one? Would you like a group discussion so we can debate and be civilized. And it’s funny how they then rescind the offer.”
Gallagher also elaborated to Media Trackers on his reasoning for voting yes:
I think nothing is not an option, right? We know what’s going to happen if we don’t advance the ball down the field. The current system is unsustainable. It’s hurting people here in Wisconsin. And even the most ardent defenders of Obamacare will say we need to fix it, which is why it’s broken. And I was really taken aback when the Wisconsin insurance commissioner showed me a map projecting what the individual insurance market is going to look like next year if we do nothing. And our area of the world, Northeast Wisconsin, effectively disappears from the map. So, just sitting back and criticizing what was an imperfect bill and doing nothing may give some sense of satisfaction. But, ultimately, people are going to get hurt. So I feel like we at least needed to continue the debate.
The bill is now in the Senate where it likely will face dramatic changes, if not a complete overhaul.