WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins told CNN that he didn't read the entire Republican health care bill that the House passed Thursday.
And then he told The Buffalo News that he was unaware of a key provision in the bill that decimates a health plan that serves 635,000 New Yorkers.
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he had read the entire health bill, Collins, R-Clarence, said: "I will fully admit, Wolf, that I did not. But I can also assure you my staff did. We have to rely on our staff. ... I'm very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called Obamacare."
Blitzer then pressed Collins, noting that the bill affects a fifth of the U.S. economy and millions of Americans.
"Don't you think it was actually important to sit down and read the language of this bill?" Blitzer asked.
To which Collins replied: "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."
— CNN (@CNN) May 4, 2017
But then Collins went further.
Told by a Buffalo News reporter that the state's largest loss of federal funds under the bill would be $3 billion annually that goes to the state's Essential Health Plan, Collins said: "Explain that to me."
The Essential Plan is an optional program under Obamacare, offered only by New York and Minnesota, that provides low-cost health insurance to low- and middle-income people who don't qualify for Medicaid. State Health Department figures show that more than 19,000 people in Erie and Niagara counties were on the Essential Plan in January.
Asked by The Buffalo News if he was aware of the bill's cut in funding to the Essential Plan, Collins said: "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."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which says it is targeting Collins when he runs for re-election next year, was quick to attack Collins for his comments.
“This disturbing admission makes it clear that Collins doesn’t respect or care about the people who sent him to Washington," said Evan Lukaske, a DCCC spokesman. "Instead of reading pharmaceutical stock financial statements, Collins should actually read the legislation that would take away health care from thousands of his constituents.”
Asked about Collins' comments on CNN and to The Buffalo News, his spokesman, Michael McAdams, noted that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., also told Blitzer he had not read the entire health bill.
“Once again The Buffalo News is twisting a Republican’s words to fit its out-of-touch, liberal narrative," McAdams said. "Congressman Collins has been intimately involved in the creation of this legislation from its inception ... 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."