WASHINGTON, May 4, (Agencies): The US House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan, handing President Donald Trump his biggest legislative victory but setting up a tough fight in the Senate. With the 217-213 vote, Republicans obtained just enough support to push the legislation through the House, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
No Democrats voted for the bill. The bill’s passage represented a vital step toward fulfilling a top Trump campaign pledge and a sevenyear Republican quest to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. But the effort now faces new hurdles in the Senate, where the House bill will have difficulty gaining Republican support.
Thursday’s vote was also a political victory for House Speaker Paul Ryan, demonstrating his ability to pull together a fractured Republican caucus after two failed attempts this year to win consensus on the healthcare legislation. Democrats are hoping that the Republicans’ vote to repeal Obamacare will spark a voter backlash in next year’s midterm congressional elections. Some 20 million Americans gained healthcare coverage under Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has recently gathered support in public opinion polls. But Republicans have long attacked it, seeing the program as government overreach and complaining that it drives up healthcare costs. The Republican bill, known formally as the American Health Care Act, aims to repeal most Obamacare taxes, including a penalty for not buying health insurance.
It would slash funding for Medicaid, the program that provides insurance for the poor, and roll back much of Medicaid’s expansion. An earlier version of the Republican plan collapsed in March, when opposition from both moderates and conservatives torpedoed their own party’s attempt to do away with former president Barack Obama’s 2010 law.
But leadership apparently won over enough skeptical members with an amendment, drafted by Upton, which adds $8 billion to help cover insurance costs for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump has touted the amended draft multiple times in recent days, and engaged personally in the armtwisting, reaching out to several Republicans by phone and face to face. “The president said ‘Billy we really need you. We need you, man.’ I said ‘You don’t have me,’” Long told reporters at the White House, describing an extended back-and-forth with Trump over what it would take for Long to back the bill. Long says he jumped on board after the president gave his blessing to the amendment that adds the supplemental $8 billion, which would be used to help fund so-called “high-risk pools” aimed at absorbing some of the costs for people with expensive conditions, like cancer.
Upton previously opposed the legislation, saying he was uncomfortable with a provision allowing states to remove coverage guarantees for people with preexisting conditions — guarantees that were provided under Obamacare. But after meeting Trump, Upton said he felt that the new funding under his amendment would “more than cover those who might be impacted.” “Not only would the AHCA (the Republicans’ American Health Care Act) eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, the legislation would, in many cases, eliminate the ban against charging those with underlying medical conditions vastly more for their coverage,” he added.