WASHINGTON- The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a revised Obamacare repeal and replacement bill – marking the first major legislative victory for President Donald Trump.
The GOP celebrated as the lower chamber voted 217-213 to approve the legislation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in March was forced to pull the American Health Care Act from the floor after learning that it did not have sufficient support to pass.
Since that time House GOP leaders in conjunction with the White House have tried to broker a compromise between moderate and conservative members of the party.
Progress commenced Wednesday in lieu of a proposed amendment that would allocate $8 billion over five years to help maintain health coverage for persons with pre-existing conditions.
The amendment was proposed by two GOP moderates who previously opposed the American Health Care Act and seeks to provide a safety net as the legislation allows insurers to charge higher rates to persons with preexisting conditions who experience a lapse in coverage.
Last week the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which led the effort to defeat the original bill, announced that they would support the revised version due to the inclusion of an amendment that is designed to contain health insurance premiums.
The American Health Care Act would allow individuals 26 years of age and under to maintain health coverage under their parents’ insurance plans as is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.
The American Health Care Act would eliminate the controversial individual mandated coverage provision contained in the Affordable Care Act that allows the government to levy a small fine on people who chose not to purchase health insurance. Employer mandates to offer coverage also would be eliminated.
The American Health Care Act would allow states under certain circumstances to apply for waivers exempting coverage of certain essential health benefits mandated under the Affordable Care Act.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act have argued that while it has improved access to health insurance, it has not improved access to health care.
Many families who have purchased Affordable Care Act policies have been smacked with skyrocketing premiums and unaffordable deductibles.
Also many insurers have decided to opt out of participating in state Affordable Care Act exchanges due to cost concerns.
Democrats have long opposed repealing the Affordable Care Act and have made successive efforts to try and convince Republicans to work toward fixing problems associated with the law. They have argued the new bill will leave 24 million without insurance, raise premiums for seniors and cut Medicaid, leaving states to deal with the shortfall in funds.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at a news conference prior to the vote on Thursday accused Republicans of misrepresenting certain provisions contained in the American Health Care Act.
“Republicans again are fraudulently claiming the Upton Amendment covers Americans with preexisting conditions: it does not,” she said.
Pelosi reiterated to reporters her contention that: “Trumpcare (The American Health Care Act) was never about strengthening health care… it was all about a tax break for the wealthiest people in our country.”
Thursday’s vote commenced without the issuance of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The CBO estimated that the original bill would strip tens of millions of their health coverage mostly due to extensive Medicaid cuts.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) just before the vote told his colleagues on the floor that the Affordable Care Act is not sustainable.
“There is a fundamental and urgent choice at the heart of this debate. We can continue with the status quo under Obamacare… it means even higher premiums, even fewer choices, even more insurance companies pulling out, even more uncertainty and even more chaos,” The Speaker explained.
The American Health Care Act faces an uncertain future in the Senate and may undergo significant revisions if and when it advances to the floor.