WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is gambling that the U.S. Senate will improve the Republican's healthcare plan.

"The earlier version of the House-proposed American Health Care Act was unacceptable to me. Today, I want to reassure New Jersey families that this legislation protects those with pre-existing conditions and restores essential health benefits," the 11th District Republican wrote in one of two statements he issued about his vote. "I voted to move this bill to the U.S. Senate, which will have the opportunity to improve this legislation significantly."

"This bill repeals Obamacare’s taxes and mandate penalties, dismantles the law’s one-size-fits-all programs, and shifts control of health care back to states and the American people. While this legislation is not perfect, or the complete solution to our broken health care system, the AHCA is a step in the right direction toward a market-based, 21st-century health care system. On balance, the American Health Care Act offers promise," Frelinghuysen said in a second statement.

Frelinghuysen's switch was key to passing the bill, as his position was unknown going into Thursday's vote on the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, which the House approved by a vote of 217-213. There were 20 GOP votes against the bill, including New Jersey Congressmen Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith.

All congressional Democrats voted against the bill, including those from New Jersey.

U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J. 3rd District, who played a key role in putting together the second version of the plan to replace the one implemented by President Barack Obama, backed the bill as well.

MacArthur said his amendment protects pre-existing conditions, a sticking point among many lawmakers. Many conservatives were won over by the amendment, which creates an $8 billion pool of money to help people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage. The change to the law would allow insurers to raise premium prices for people with such pre-existing conditions.

"I’ve said many times that this bill is not perfect, but it’s an improvement from where it started and I stand by my efforts to make it better. It’s important that Congress was able to pass the AHCA and take this important step that will provide the American people with patient-centered, affordable care," MacArthur said in a statement after the bill passed.

Smith, in a statement, said he voted no because "it cuts Medicaid funding by $839 billion; undercuts essential health benefits such as maternity care, newborn care, hospitalization and pediatric services; includes ‘per capita caps’ and weakens coverage for pre-existing health conditions — all of which will hurt disabled persons (especially and including children and adults with autism), the elderly and the working poor."

Senators are already talking about preventing some of the House bill's Medicaid cuts. Some don't like its easing of Obama coverage requirements on insurers, and others think its tax credits must be redirected toward lower-income people.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah says senators must focus "on the art of the doable."

New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chair John Currie chastised the entire Republican delegation for their passage of the bill.

"The bill that passed the House will have a painful effect on hard-working New Jersey families if it becomes law. The consequences could, literally, be deadly," Currie wrote, claiming that four million Americans will lose their health insurance if the bill becomes law.

Currie wrote, "MacArthur and Frelinghuysen are particularly deserving of condemnation for putting the wishes of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan before their constituents' needs, it is not like New Jersey’s House Republicans were courageous. Voters will remember their broken promises next November."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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