U.S. Congressman Andy Harris speaks to the audience gathered at Bel Air Town Hall
U.S. Congressman Andy Harris speaks to the audience gathered at Bel Air Town Hall (Matt Button Aegis Staff, Patuxent Homestead)

Once again, the mostly male, mostly well-insured Republican majority of the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law that extends health insurance to millions of Americans through Medicaid expansion, subsidies and mandates. Those who keep count say this was the 56th time Republicans voted to kill Obamacare.

Remarkably, three Republicans sided with the Democrats and voted against repeal this time.

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Unremarkably, Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican member of Congress, voted against the ACA, along with 238 other prophets of doom.

Nothing new there.

While running for Congress in 2010, Harris made sure everyone knew he was opposed to the health insurance law. He said the ACA would kill businesses and cripple the economy. He was a real sourpuss about the whole thing. And it didn't seem to matter that an estimated 70,000 uninsured people in the First District, which extends from Carroll County all the way to Ocean City, stood to benefit from the law.

Hypocrisy didn't seem to matter, either.

Less than two weeks after his election, Harris went to a closed-door freshman orientation session, raised his hand and questioned why neither he nor his staff would get their federal health coverage until a month after Harris took office, in January 2011. "This is the only employer I've ever worked for where you don't get coverage the first day you are employed," he said.

Being obtuse must be blissful.

You'd think that, by now, Harris might have looked around his district and noticed that many of his constituents have started to benefit from this law.

You'd think he might be glad to know that parents of young adults get to keep them on their family plans until age 26, or that people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance or charged more for it. You'd think ol' Grumpy Gills would feel good about that.

Or, being a Hopkins-trained doctor, you'd think Harris would be happy to know that in rural Somerset County, with its 23 percent poverty rate — the poorest county in the state and one of the poorest in the country — about 1,000 people have insurance they didn't have before the current enrollment period opened in November.

Getting people signed up in Maryland's rural areas has been a challenge, and that effort certainly isn't helped by politicians who go around bad-mouthing Obamacare every chance they get.

Despite that, people in the rural areas of Harris' district have been getting coverage: 1,104 in Caroline County as of Jan. 22; in Cecil, 2,732; in Dorchester, 992; in Wicomico, 3,139; in Worcester, 2,347.

If you add in the newly enrolled in Kent (549), Talbot (1,219) and Queen Anne's (1,359), the total for the Eastern Shore since November is a bit more than 14,000 and counting. (The present enrollment period ends Feb. 15.)

That total does not include people from the northern, suburban stretches of Harris' 1st District — in Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties.

Thousands of people in those jurisdictions have either signed up for subsidized insurance or been enrolled in Medicaid since the fall: 25,627 in Baltimore County; 3,962 in Carroll, and 6,462 in Harford.

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The 1st is one of those odd-shaped districts that resulted from gerrymandering. It includes pieces of Baltimore County — Harris lives in Cockeysville — a big chunk of Harford and a good slice of Carroll.

So it's hard to say exactly how many of Harris' constituents have gained health insurance as a result of the law he keeps voting against, but the number is clearly in the tens of thousands.

Add to that all the people who already had insurance but who now get those benefits I mentioned earlier (keeping children on plans until age 26, no refusals because of pre-existing conditions), and it's safe to say that a large proportion of Harris' constituents have benefited from the ACA. The district's population in the last U.S. Census was about 724,000.

I asked a few questions of the congressman in an email to his staff on Wednesday: Would he care to explain why he continues to vote for repeal? Does he know how many constituents of the 1st District are now insured because of the ACA? Does that matter to him?

His answer: "In accordance with the wishes of an overwhelming majority of my constituents, I voted to fully repeal the law each of the four times it came to the floor for a vote."

Four times? I questioned that number but received no further response.

Let's be clear: Andy Harris has incessantly attacked a law designed to extend health care to millions of Americans who had no insurance and whose health costs were a burden to the rest of us. His legacy right now is not much more than: doctor turned congressman, fought healthcare expansion to thousands of his own constituents.

You'd think, at some point, Harris would want to make a change — you know, before the voters of the 1st District do.

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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