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NY leaders react with dismay to ACA repeal

Some of New York’s leaders are expressing outrage over the Republican House of Representatives vote to undo the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned for months that the proposed repeal of the ACA would blow a multi-billion-dollar hole in the state budget and potentially cost state and local governments and New York’s hospitals $4.5 billion.

Those who get their health care through the New York Exchange, set up under Obamacare, could lose $400 million in tax credits. And 1 million New Yorkers could lose their health care. 

In a statement shortly after the vote, Cuomo called the vote an “unconscionable” act by “ultraconservatives” that “threatens to tear apart” the health care system.

Speaking earlier in the week, Cuomo said the bill is “an arrow at the heart of New York.”

“Their health care proposal would devastate this state,” Cuomo said. “Literally cost us billions and billions of dollars.”

The governor also denounced an amendment sponsored by Western New York Rep. Chris Collins and Hudson Valley Rep. John Faso that would require New York state to take over the counties’ costs of Medicaid, worth about $2.3 billion.

Cuomo, speaking when the amendment was first proposed in late March, said it’s a “despicable” attempt to buy votes at the “cost of the state of New York” and their own districts, and that he is considering legal action.

“I believe it is unconstitutional,” Cuomo said on March 23. “We are seriously considering a lawsuit.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is not only opposed to the repeal bill, but criticized the GOP for having only overnight to review what was in the measure before the vote was taken.

"To me that's irresponsible that they're going to, first of all, criticize past legislatures for not taking the time to read and understand what's in the bill and then, in fact, they turn around and do the very same stuff," Hochul said. "I know the voters aren't excited about the hypocrisy, where no one really knows what's in it. We're just being spoon-fed some of the highlights, but there's not even an opportunity right now to have what they call 'the scoring,' which is the true assessment of the costs from the Congressional Budget Office."

Collins admitted in an interview televised on CNN Thursday that he had not read the bill, but instead relied on his congressional staff to review the measure.

Hochul said thousands of healthcare jobs are at risk, as well, because the repeal bill cuts payments to hospitals, nursing homes and home healthcare agencies.

"And even the whole issue of pre-existing conditions, they've now added a few more dollars to it and said, 'Oh, we've got it covered,' but the bottom line is it still leaves that up to individual states as to whether they want to have that coverage," she said. "So, literally in the United States of America, you can live or die depending on what state you happened to reside on, instead of having the guaranteed health care that we've enjoyed all these years."

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said that the repeal bill, if it were to pass the U.S. Senate and become law, would “punch a big hole” in the state budget and means that “far fewer New Yorkers will have insurance.”

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he also believes the bill is unconstitutional, and said he stands “ready to challenge it in court.”

Schneiderman said the measure “threatens to slash essential health care services for millions of New Yorkers who need them the most” and would unconstitutionally “deny women access to reproductive health care.” 

He said he also believes the Collins-Faso amendment “exceeds Congress’ authority by interfering with how New York has long elected to fund its Medicaid program.”

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress are defending their vote.

Faso said in a statement that the ACA has already “failed” and would “collapse under its own weight if nothing is done.” Faso said his amendment “will bring much-needed property tax relief” and preserve jobs.

Collins, in a statement, called Obamacare a “nightmare” that has “plagued” Americans for seven years. And Collins also touted what he said is the “largest property tax reduction ever to be enacted.”

Left-leaning political groups are incensed. Jessica Wisneski with Citizen Action said GOP congressmen and women from New York who voted for the repeal did the wrong thing.

“They completely disregarded the thousands and thousands of constituents who voiced a very clear opinion that they should vote against this bill,” Wisneski said.

Wisneski said while one of her group’s purposes is to organize political action, the discontent she’s seeing is bubbling up from ordinary people.

“The natural next step is going to be angry crowds of people outside their offices,” she said. “We don’t even have to organize that.”

The battle now shifts to the U.S. Senate.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this report.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.