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McMorris Rodgers and other Washington Republicans in Congress tell Inslee Obamacare must change

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 24, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence, second from left, meets with, from left, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, following a closed-door meeting with the GOP caucus to discuss repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Vice President Mike Pence, second from left, meets with, from left, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, following a closed-door meeting with the GOP caucus to discuss repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

In another sign of the partisan divide over health care reform, Republicans in Washington’s congressional delegation defended possible changes to Obamacare, saying it is too expensive and reduces insurance options for some rural residents.

In a response to a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee urging them to preserve the federal law formally known as the Affordable Care Act, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and three other Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives said they believe people with pre-existing medical conditions should not be denied coverage.

A spokeswoman for Inslee said a formal response will be sent in a few days, but an initial reading of the congressmembers’ letter suggests they are using “alternative facts to distort the reality of the ACA.”

The four U.S. House members listed a series of shortcomings they see in the current law.

“Premiums are skyrocketing across the country with double digit increases,” they wrote. “Exacerbating the high out-of-pocket costs is the continued, steady departure of insurance companies from the market place.”

The law can’t be allowed to jeopardize the viability of Medicaid, the federally subsidized health care program for low income people, they wrote. But they support a smooth transition to a new system because “no one should have the rug pulled out from under them.”

Last month, Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler wrote McMorris Rodgers and Central Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, urging them to keep the Affordable Care Act intact. More than 700,000 Washington residents get insurance through some aspect of the law, and repealing it without a viable replacement could destabilize the state’s health insurance market and hurt the state budget and economy.

Jaime Smith, Inslee’s communications director, said the law is providing coverage to hundreds of thousands of state residents, helping lower inflation, improving access to health care and creating jobs.

“Most importantly, their letter dodges the key question of whether they will make sure a replacement is in place prior to any repeal,” Smith said.

Responding to the charge of “alternative facts,” Molly Drenkard, a spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers, countered that the information in the letter came from Inslee and Kreidler’s offices.

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