By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
For better or worse, the Republicans delivered on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. On Thursday afternoon, May 4, 2017, the House of Representatives passed a revised version of the American Health Care Act with a vote of 217 to 213, with 20 Republicans voting against the bill and all of the House Democrats. Afterward, Trump had the House leadership and GOP members of Congress at the White House for a victory press conference in the Rose Garden. This is the third attempt at putting the AHCA to a vote; it now goes to the Senate, where the Senate GOP promised a far different bill.
President Trump basked in his first major legislative victory at a press conference at the White House. In his statement, Trump praised Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the House GOP for passing the bill. The President declared, Obamacare “essentially dead.” Speaking of the new bill Trump said, “What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted… This is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better. This is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it.”
Continuing, Trump expressed, “This has really brought the Republican Party together. As much as we’ve come up with a really incredible health care plan, this has brought the Republican Party together. We’re going to get this finished.” Despite the rumblings for the Senate GOP over the present state of the bill, President Trump is “confident” it will pass there. Trump said, “It’s going to be an unbelievable victory when we get it through the Senate and there’s so much spirit there.”
The bill failed to go to a vote in late March after the conservative House GOP Freedom Conference balked at the bill. The new compromise allowed the states more flexibility with opting out of many of Obamacare’s requirements. Among the provisions, opt-outs include the policies that contain ten essential health benefits, and charging more consumers with pre-existing conditions, the one aspect that has garnered the GOP the most criticism and backlash. However, those with pre-existing conditions would only be charged extra if their policies lapse for more than two months.
Among the other changes to the bill from the present Obamacare, it ends the individual mandate and taxes on the wealthy. The bill gets rids of subsidies replacing them with tax credits that are based on age rather than financial need. The bill benefits youth, and it leaves Americans in their 50s and early 60s paying more. The rules regarding Medicaid would also drastically change; limiting federal funds to the program, by 2020, states that had expanded their program would have to pay for it themselves, while those who have not would be prevented from any expansion. Eligibility requirement could be more stringent, where those that are “able-bodied” would need to work for health coverage.
President Trump, however, promised the American public “As far as I’m concerned, your premiums are going to come down.” The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office did not have a chance to grade the revised bill, but their report on the bill’s previous incarnation showed that 24 million Americans would lose insurance coverage by 2026.
While Republicans cheered the vote, Democrats jeered. Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Speaker Ryan declared Obamacare a “failing law.” In his pep talk, Ryan said, “Let’s give people more choices and more control over their care. Let’s return power from Washington to the states.” Ryan pointed out the vote is the GOP longtime promise to the public. The speaker said, “A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote.” Many lawmakers are “here because they promised to cast this vote.” Earlier in the day, the GOP played the theme song to “Rocky” at their meeting to drum up excitement for the vote, and displayed Gen. George S. Patton image, while Ryan quoted the general.
Democrats are hailing the bill as a death sentence for the GOP House majority in the 2018-midterm elections. Before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed, “Do you believe in what is in this bill? Some of you have said … well, they’ll fix it in the Senate. But you have every provision of this bill tattoos on your forehead you will glow in the dark on this one.” She concluded, “You will glow in the dark. So don’t walk the plank.” After the vote the House Democrats “chanted,” “nah nah nah nah hey hey hey goodbye” to their Republican colleagues.