The House voted Wednesday to repeal most of Obamacare, sending legislation to President Obama that would dismantle his biggest domestic policy achievement to date. Obama has said that he will veto the repeal measure, and Democrats in each chamber have enough votes to block an override by the Republican majority.
“We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: Obamacare doesn’t work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters. The measure passed Wednesday, H.R. 3762, provides the beginning of a template for how Republicans will address health care in 2017, if they win the presidency and retain control of the House and Senate.
While retaining pieces of the Affordable Care Act, the measure will eliminate penalties for not complying with its requirement that individuals and large employers buy insurance for employees. The Obama administration contends that could encourage healthy policyholders to drop coverage, causing rate increases for less healthy people who retain their policies.
The bill also would cancel, by 2018, the law’s expansion of the federal-state Medicaid health program for the poor, and subsidies for people who purchase insurance coverage through federal or state exchanges. The vote was well short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override the presidential veto.
The legislation passed Wednesday also would deny $450 million dollars annually of federal money for Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health-care organization that Republicans have sought to defund following the discovery of undercover videos alleged to show its officials discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to medical researchers. Planned Parenthood claims to have only received the cost of providing the tissue, and it later stopped taking such payments.
All Democratic Votes
Republicans have sought to kill the Affordable Care Act since Congress enacted it with all Democratic votes during Obama’s first term. The House has voted upwards of 50 times to repeal, delay or defund the law. This recent attempt is the first time a measure got through the Senate because lawmakers used a procedure allowing the Republican majority to pass it without having to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
In September, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated about 17.6 million previously uninsured people gained coverage under Affordable Care Act provisions including marketplace insurance plans, expanded Medicaid and young people allowed to stay on their parents’ plans through age 26.
The measure wouldn’t entirely dismantle the ACA. For example, it would retain the requirement that insurers offer coverage and set insurance premiums without regard for someone’s pre-existing conditions. In addition, unchanged would be revisions in Medicare that reward the value of procedures, instead of the volume of procedures, as well as reduce excessive provider payments.
The repeal legislation would decrease the U.S. deficit by about $516 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO said in a December 11 letter, it would also increase the number of people without health insurance coverage by approximately 22 million people in most years after 2017.
In December, Congress also voted in separate tax and spending legislation to suspend a number of taxes intended to fund the health-care law. The “Cadillac tax” placed on high-cost health insurance plans would be delayed from 2018 to 2020; a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices would be on-hold in 2016 and 2017; and a fee on health insurers would also be paused for 2016.
The U.S. Supreme Court has twice upheld key elements of the Affordable Care Act. The court in June preserved subsidies that have helped millions of Americans pay their health insurance premiums.
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