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Rep. Upton decides to support health care bill with added amendment

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -

Congressman Fred Upton spoke with ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz on Wednesday after meeting with President Donald Trump and announcing his support for the latest health care bill.

“I told the president in direct terms [Tuesday] that I couldn’t support it without protections for pre-existing illnesses,” said Upton, in a phone interview from Washington Wednesday evening. “And we left it at that.”

Upton surprised the Republican Party by announcing on Tuesday that he would not be voting for the latest revision of the American Health Care Act.

“You know from day one, I’ve supported the rights of those with pre-existing illnesses to be covered,” said Upton, in an interview in Washington on Tuesday. “And in my view this [bill] undermines that effort, and I can’t be a part of it. There are, yes there are ways to fix it. But the proposal that’s on the table now doesn’t work.”

But on Wednesday – standing alongside Missouri Congressman Billy Long outside the White House – Upton spoke very differently of the bill after meeting with President Trump in the morning.

“I support the bill with this amendment that’s going to be included as part of the rules package when we consider this, likely [Thursday],” said Upton, speaking with reporters outside the White House.

The amendment he mentioned is one Upton has been working on in an effort to get more funding for people with pre-existing conditions.

Upton mapped out the proposal to the Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday.

According to an excerpt of the article, “The proposal would provide $8 billion over five years to help some people with pre-existing medical conditions pay costly insurance premiums.”

On the phone with ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz on Wednesday evening, Upton explained his pitch to the president.

“Today, [President Trump] said, ‘What is your amendment? Walk me through what this is,’” said Upton.

With Vice President Pence passing by, Upton said Trump “accepted our amendment and that’s what our conversation revolved around. There was nothing else.”

Upton said he decided on the $8 billion figure after several experts recommended to him that $5 billion would be enough.

He said his priority has long been providing adequate funding for those with pre-existing illnesses.

He also said he was against the latest version of the American Health Care Act up until the president – and many members of the Republican Party, including the House Freedom Caucus – accepted his amendment.

“The current Obamacare bill, it’s just not working,” said Upton, during the phone interview. “We’re seeing double digit increases in virtually every state; some states more than 100 percent. Predictions are that premiums will go up 40 to 50 percent this fall. I’m trying to fix it. And I’m trying to fix it with provisions that help states like Michigan.”

Some of the longtime southwest Michigan congressman’s constituents were not pleased with his sudden reversal.

Mere hours after Upton announced his support for the bill, between 60 and 70 demonstrators gathered outside his district office on Main Street in St. Joe, MI.

“I was very disturbed by Upton’s flip-flop,” said Alice Hansen, a St. Joe resident. “This afternoon when I got off work, I had learned that what I went to bed with last night – that he had voted down the repeal of Obamacare – when I got off work at noon today, I found out that he had flopped.”

“Today he flip-flopped,” said Dr. Larry Feldman, another St. Joe resident. “And what he has offered in his so-called amendment is a drop in the bucket…I am so disappointed that he would show so little resolve and so little backbone in the face of pressure from Trump and the Republican leadership in the Congress.”

“I actually faxed his office and sang his praises [on Tuesday] and I was so happy that they were slowing things down to do this right,” said Peggy Getty, another St. Joe resident. “And then around lunchtime, I got a text from my sister saying that Upton had flipped. I reached out to my friends and we all said we’ve got to do something.”

The demonstrators held signs and chanted outside Upton’s office for about an hour.

House Republicans announced Wednesday that they will vote on the health care bill on Thursday.

If it passes, it will head to the Senate.

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