WASHINGTON– BREAKING: The House has voted to dismantle the pillars of the Affordable Care Act and make sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system.
The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces daunting challenges because of the same ideological splits between conservative and moderate Republicans that nearly killed it in the House.
Trump will hold a celebratory news conference at the White House, and GOP lawmakers are expected to take buses from Capitol Hill after the vote.
Thursday marks a political milestone — one that has painfully eluded Trump and House leaders for months. The controversial health care bill delivered Trump the biggest political defeat of his short presidency in March, when the legislation had to be yanked from the House floor because it simply didn’t have enough support.
Under pressure from an antsy Trump looking to score a big political victory, Republican leaders tried again last week, hoping to to get to 216 votes ahead of the President’s symbolically important 100-day mark in office. That effort, too, failed.
Before the vote on the House floor, Ryan made the case that Republicans had no choice but to work to put Obamacare — what he called a “failing law” — behind them. “Let’s give people more choices and more control over their care.”
“Let’s return power from Washington to the states,” Ryan said.
“A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote.” Ryan said. Many lawmakers, he added are “here because they promised to cast this vote.”
‘Rocky’ plays in GOP meeting
Thursday morning, Republicans were already in a celebratory mode. The theme song to “Rocky” played as members filed in to a meeting in the House basement.
Rep. Daniel Webster described Ryan as almost “giddy.”
Asked if he will be relieved when all of this is over, Virginia Rep. Dave Brat said simply: “Highly!”
When it came time for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to speak in the meeting, an image of Gen. George S. Patton popped up on the LCD screens in the room. McCarthy proceeded to roll off several motivational quotes from Patton to urge the conference along.
There was also high praise for President Donald Trump: New York Rep. Chris Collins credited the President for getting the bill across the finish line. “This was Donald J. Trump, the negotiator getting it done,” Collins said.
Before the final vote, the House unanimously passed a separate bill that will ensure members of Congress and their staffs are subject to the rules of their new health care measure. Originally, Republicans were under fire after it was reported that they wouldn’t be subject to the rules of their own bill. Republicans said that they were required to include the exemption under Senate rules.
Democrats ready for 2018 fight
Democrats, for their part, are poised to hold the health care bill over the heads of Republicans next year.
As anxious reporters stood outside of Ryan’s office Wednesday night, waiting for guidance on whether there would be a vote Thursday morning, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings approached the group to joke that he had a “breaking” announcement.
Republicans had the votes on their health care bill, Cummings said. His punchline: And Democrats will take back the House in 2018.
As originally introduced, the GOP bill would leave 24 million fewer people insured by 2026 than under Obamacare, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said. There will not be a new CBO report before Thursday’s vote on the legislation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted the bill and timing of the vote.
“Forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that Republicans are terrified of the public learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold,” Pelosi said in a statement. “But tomorrow, House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable.”
What’s in the bill?
The GOP health care bill would eliminate Obamacare taxes on the wealthy, insurers and others, and get rid of the individual mandate imposed by Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. Instead of the Obamacare subsidies that are tied to income and premiums, the GOP plan would provide Americans with refundable tax credits based mainly on age to purchase health insurance.
The legislation would also allow insurers to charge higher premiums to those in their 50s and early 60s, compared to younger consumers.
It would also significantly curtail federal support for Medicaid and allow states to require able-bodied adults to work. After 2020, states that expanded Medicaid would no longer receive enhanced federal funding to cover low-income adults, and those that hadn’t expanded would be immediately barred from doing so.
And it would allow states to relax some key Obamacare protections of those with pre-existing conditions, which are among the health reform law’s most popular provisions. States could apply for waivers to allow insurers to offer skimpier policies that don’t cover the 10 essential health benefits mandated by Obamacare. Also, insurers would be able to charge higher premiums to those with medical issues if they let their coverage lapse. States requesting waivers would have to set up programs — such as high-risk pools — to protect insurers from high-cost patients.
An eleventh-hour amendment that helped seal the missing GOP votes would add $8 billion over five years to fund high-risk pools and go toward patients with pre-existing conditions in states that seek waivers under the Republican legislation. The legislation already included $130 billion in the fund.
However, the GOP bill doesn’t touch one another beloved piece of Obamacare — letting children stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26.
Republican Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) released the following statement regarding his opposition to the House Health Care Bill:
“I am disappointed the House passed this bill that I believe will increase health insurance costs particularly for low-to-moderate income Americans, increase the number of uninsured by as much as 24 million people, and undermine important protections for those living with pre-existing conditions. It is my hope that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate and that they will produce a better bill that is focused on improving the health care for all Americans rather than the haphazardly constructed and hastily considered House bill. Health care reform should be about the improving care for the American people. Too much time and energy has been spent on meeting arbitrary deadlines and artificial timelines, all to improve the budget baseline for tax reform. We must and can do better.”
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the statement below following the House of Representatives passage of the American Health Care Act which would repeal the Affordable Care Act:
“Republicans in the House of Representatives just delivered an economic punch to the gut of middle class families in Pennsylvania. What passed today isn’t a health care bill, but a scheme to cut taxes for millionaires and big corporations, a giveaway for special interests, and forces middle class families in Pennsylvania to pay more for their health care. This will throw Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions into a high-risk pool, forcing them to pay thousands of dollars more for coverage, impose an “age tax” on older Americans, and leave individuals with disabilities out in the cold – possibly without even the security of Medicaid coverage. It is outrageous to think that anyone would support legislation that decimates Medicaid – a program designed to help our most vulnerable friends, family members and neighbors. Where is the heart in that? It is equally disturbing that the bill opens the door to turning Medicare into a voucher program. President Trump promised not to touch Medicaid or Medicare and has betrayed those promises by supporting this bill. Instead of going along with far right congressional Republicans, President Trump should have worked in a bipartisan way to make health care more affordable for middle class families. Now that this legislation is coming to the Senate, I am redoubling my effort to fight like hell on behalf of families, seniors and individuals with disabilities who will be immeasurably harmed by it.”
Congressman Scott Perry offered his support for the bill in the following statement:
“The Affordable Care Act is broken. Over the last seven years, we’ve seen less choice and skyrocketing costs for basic medical care. Five states and one-third of U.S. counties have one choice for health insurance this year. Premiums are up about 25 percent this year. Hundreds of constituents have shared their stories of how rising costs devastate their families and small businesses,” said Perry.
“For these and other reasons, I made a commitment to the people of my district to repeal the Affordable Care Act; and I have every intention of fulfilling that commitment.”
“While it’s important to recognize the American Health Care Act (AHCA) does not repeal the Affordable Care Act in full, it is a first step, albeit an imperfect one. Recent changes in the ACHA will give states more flexibility to tailor health care policies to meet the specific needs of its citizens and help reduce premium costs over time, while explicitly maintaining protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”
I will support these changes, but will continue my efforts to improve our health care system and lower costs for the hard-working people of the 4th District.”