Remarks by Chris Collins and a financial transaction draw fire in national media reports
Yesterday, Rep. Chris Collins was quick to tout his support for legislation to change the nation's health care laws, but today, Collins was among a handful of Republican congressmen under fire after admitting they didn't read all of the language of the legislation before the rollcall vote.
According to CNN, Collins said he had several meetings with staff to discuss the plan, known as the "repeal and replace" answer to the Affordable Care Act that could change health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. He said he is "very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called 'Obamacare.' "
Collins reportedly went on to say, "You know, I have to rely on my staff, and I could probably tell you that I read every word, and I wouldn't be telling you the truth, nor would any other member. We rely on our staff, and we rely on our committees, and I'm comfortable that I understand this bill in its entirety, Wolf, without poring through every word."
Thousands of residents of the 27th Congressional District receive subsidized health insurance under the ACA, including more than 5,000 in Genesee County.
The legislation passed by the House yesterday, known as the American Health Care Act, would replace the subsidies, currently paid directly to health insurance companies, with tax credits that some critics say will not provide the same level of financial assistance for ever-more-expensive health insurance.
Jerry Zremski, bureau chief for the Buffalo News, picked up on the remarks by Collins and asked him about one specific provision of the bill, an amendment that would cost the State of New York $3 billion by ending a provision called "The Essential Plan," an optional program under the ACA offered only to New York and Minnesota. It provides low-cost health insurance to low- and middle-income residents who don't qualify for Medicaid.
According to Zremski's report, Collins was unaware of the bill's elimination of the funding. He quotes Collins as saying, "No. But it doesn't surprise me for you to tell me that there were two states in the nation that were taking advantage of some other waiver program and New York was one of the two states."
Collins was traveling today and couldn't be reached for comment, but his local staff provided the following statement drafted by Micheal McAdams, press secretary in the D.C. office of the congressman:
“Once again the Buffalo News is twisting a Republican’s words to fit its out of touch, liberal narrative. Congressman Collins has been intimately involved in the creation of this legislation from its inception. Over the past four years, he has participated in hundreds of hours of health care hearings, spent many hours marking up this legislation including a 26 hour mark-up in March, and spent hundreds of hours hearing from countless organizations that have a stake in the the health care debate. As a member of the Health Subcommittee, he participated in writing the text of the American Health Care Act.
“Just like Congressman Elijah Cummings who also said he didn’t read every word of this legislation, Congressman Collins has a complete understanding of this bill. He understands the impact it would have on Western New Yorkers. To infer Congressman Collins doesn’t understand the disastrous impact Obamacare has had on our region and our nation is absolutely shameful. The bottom line is the American Health Care Act provides the health care solutions Western New Yorkers need to increase choice and lower costs, as well as providing real property tax relief to every taxpayer in his district.
"Congressman Collins is proud to have played a substantial role in the legislation’s creation and passage.”
The dustup over reading the bill is just the latest bit of negative publicity Collins has gotten from the national media. He's also been scrutinized for a financial investment that gives the appearance of an overlap with his legislative activity.
From The Daily Beast:
The Republican congressman purchased $2.2 million worth of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics as part of its initial public offering in late 2013, according to a previously unreported document Collins filed with Australia’s securities authority. The IPO prospectus said Innate would seek FDA approval of its drug to treat multiple sclerosis. More than a year later, Collins wrote into a bill language to expedite the FDA’s approval process for such drugs. Four months before the bill was signed into law, Collins again purchased stock in Innate, this time as much as $1 million, according to congressional financial disclosure records.
According to the story, Collins, who owns $22 million of the stock, has been criticized by ethics experts for the transactions.
We also sought comments from Collins on the controversy and received the following statement drafted by McAdams:
“Despite the continued partisan attacks insinuating otherwise, Congressman Collins has followed all ethical guidelines related to his personal finances during his time in the House and will continue to do so.
“Congressman Collins’ relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics dates back more than 15 years. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases in the world and Congressman Collins saw its deadly impact first hand as it affected a close family member. As of now, it has no cure and no relief of symptoms. He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”
Congressman Collins is a special interest tycoon.... he owns several companies that benefit from healthcare.
[One example: Congressman Chris Collins owns Innate Immunotherapeutics [a pharmaceutical drug developer], and that he helped craft legislation [the 21st Century Cures Act, passed and signed by President Obama on December 13, 2016] that would directly substantially benefit Innate Immunotherapeutics. And furthermore, knowing the almost certainty that the legislation was going to pass, he advised several close friends and associates to invest in Innate Immunotherapeutics, which all combined caused a 3-4x increase in the Stock value of Innate Immunotherapeutics. [They all tripled+ their money!]. He should be facing legal action over his insider trading activities.]
The TrumpCare Bill passing the House of Representatives is a JOKE! The final vote total was 216/215 and 20 Republicans voted Nay. And they are calling that a "huge victory"???
I am very disappointed in the Freedom Caucus and Tea Party Republicans for supporting this Bill. Obviously they just wanted to get a Victory in their GOP win column.
The Democrat's ACA is being replaced with the Republican's AHCA..... WTH!