WASHINGTON — The Republican healthcare plan passed with the support of two members of the New Jersey congressional delegation on Thursday.

The measure squeaked through the House by a vote of 217-213 with no support from Democratic House members. Eighteen Republicans including New Jersey representatives Frank LoBiondo, Leonard Lance and Chris Smith also voted against the bill.

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 healthcare implemented by President Barack Obama, backed the bill along with Rodney Frelinghuysen, who did not make his position known prior to Thursday's vote.

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.

LoBiondo, a South Jersey Republican, tweeted Thursday morning that he would vote against the bill. "My concerns about Medicaid, preexisting conditions not resolved," his message said, adding that his office was receiving many emails and voice mail messages about the measure.

After the vote, Lance outlined his reasons for voting agains the measure, including its unknown cost. In a statement, he said he ran in support of replacing Obamacare with a plan that protects those with pre-existing conditions that would "provides a stable transition for those forced into Obamacare at no fault of their own. And I ran on the promise of not simply repealing Obamacare and returning to the status quo but offering something better. The House-passed bill doesn’t achieve these goals."

“Additionally, important cost-saving provisions like purchase of policies across state lines, small business pooling and medical malpractice reform are absent from today’s legislation," Lance said.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. 11th District, had opposed the original version of the bill. He could not be reached for comment after the vote.

"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," MacArthur said after the vote. "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."

After the vote, Democrats insisted Republicans will pay at election time for repealing major provisions of the law. They sang the pop song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" to the GOP lawmakers as the end of the voting neared.

"You vote for this bill, you'll have walked the plank from moderate to radical," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warning Republicans that voters would punish them. "You will glow in the dark on this one."

Democrats defended Obama's law, one of his crowning domestic achievements, for expanding coverage to 20 million Americans and forcing insurers to offer more generous benefits. They said the GOP measure would toss millions off coverage while delivering tax cuts to the wealthy.

The bill would eliminate tax penalties Obama's law which has clamped down on people who don't buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama's subsidies for millions buying insurance — largely based on people's incomes and premium costs — into tax credits that rise with consumers' ages.

The measure would retain Obama's requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J 12th District, said she was "sad and angry" after the vote. 

“The premature victory lap at White House is the latest illustration that this President and his backslappers in Congress care more about politics than the wellbeing of the constituents they swore to protect," she said.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J. 10th District, called the bill "fundamentally flawed" and said as many as 24 million Americans could lose coverage.

“Republicans are treating health care as if it’s a game. The American people will hold them accountable.”  

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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