CHARLOTTE — U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger gave his enthusiastic endorsement on Friday to the latest Republican health-care bill, saying North Carolina would gain $7 billion over the next 10 years by its passage.
But he spoke as prospects for the Graham-Cassidy legislation dwindled.
The legislation puts states in charge of writing many rules, including on coverage for pre-existing conditions and costs for older and less healthy individuals, Pittenger said in a 30-minute telephone conversation.
The Republican, whose 9th District includes all of Robeson County, also discussed the temporary freeze of Federal Emergency Management Agency hurricane aid to North Carolina and President Trump’s speech to the United Nations.
“This is Jeffersonian democracy at its best,” Pittenger said of the health-care bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana. “Different states have different needs. The block grants will result in greater accountability, also.
“This is a good bill for North Carolina. This will be better because funding will be split equitably by population, poverty and other demographics.”
Several analysts noted North Carolina would be a slight loser financially from the Graham-Cassidy bill, but Pittenger cites a study by health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield to support his numbers. The Congressional Budget Office has not weighed in yet.
The congressman from Charlotte said cutting funding to Planned Parenthood also is in the bill. However, one of his pet issues, selling health insurance across state lines, is not. Pittenger said because of Senate rules, policy issues like that will be worked out later.
“Obamacare is a colossal failure,” he said. “It attempts to force individuals into a one-size-fits-all model. As a result, rates in North Carolina have skyrocketed 176 percent since 2013.”
There was bad news Friday for the Graham-Cassidy bill. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said he would not support it. McCain cast the deciding vote against the last attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“I respect John McCain’s service to his country, but I believe he is doing a disservice to the country (with his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill),” Pittenger said.
The Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, and others from the party lining up against the legislation include Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins in Maine.
Pittenger said FEMA disaster relief funding to North Carolina would resume in a matter of weeks.
“I have spoken with the Office of Budget and Management, and they said funds would become available again before the end of the year,” he said. “I work on this every day, and we are in constant contact with all the agencies. North Carolina will get its fair share.”
Pittenger called President Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations earlier this week, “outstanding, Reganesque.”
“President Trump has laid out the realities of our national security,” he said. “It is unacceptable that for 30 years, we have given the government of North Korea a free hand.
“You have to be strong and let the world know it. The president let the world know what we stand for.”
Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-416-5649.