Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose congressional district has one of the highest number of people in the country covered by the Affordable Care Act, voted this week to replace the popular healthcare law with the House GOP's proposed alternative.
"I think this could be very successful," Curbelo told the Miami Herald, referring to the American Health Care Act, which has cleared two House committees and won the endorsement of President Donald Trump. "Whereas the ACA threatens people and punishes them if they don't acquire a health insurance product approved by the government, this proposal says, 'We're going to empower each and every one of you as consumers so that you have the resources to purchase the plan that best fits your needs.'"
But Curbelo's vote, at 4:15 a.m. Thursday on the House Ways and Means Committee, gave Democrats a renewed line of attack against the sophomore congressman, who was comfortably reelected in November even though Hillary Clinton trounced Trump in his district.
"Carlos Curbelo is now on the record in favor of jacking up health insurance premiums and ripping away coverage form millions so that Republicans can cut taxes for health insurance CEOs," Javier Gamboa, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement. "This is a boardroom bailout that makes health care more expensive and less accessible for Americans and now Carlos Curbelo owns this debacle until Election Day."
The Florida Democratic Party and another liberal group in the state, For Our Future, also pounced on Curbelo. They criticized him for voting for legislation before having an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office of how much it might cost or how many people might be insured.
"That was not ideal, but that's something that we can address in the coming weeks," Curbelo said. "We just voted to advance this proposal through the legislative process. The CBO score will be in by Monday, and if there are any adjustments that need to be made, we have plenty of time."
An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank, found that older Floridians with lower incomes who live in rural areas will fare worse under the AHCA than they did under Obamacare. Curbelo's district includes the rural Florida Keys -- which he countered have only one insurance provider under the existing marketplaces created by the ACA.
In the committee, Curbelo correctly noted that the Obamacare small-business tax credit has attracted very few eligible businesses.
As of January, Curbelo's district had about 92,500 people enrolled in the marketplaces -- one of the highest number in the country.
Democrats don't have an obvious candidate to run against Curbelo in 2018, a midterm election year in which Florida Republicans tend to get more of their voters to the polls. And he ran on his opposition to portions of Obamacare, which he voted repeatedly to limit and replace during his first term in office. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a leading author of the House alternative, even campaigned for Curbelo in Southwest Miami-Dade County.
--with Amy Sherman
Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press