Almost exactly seven years since President Obama’s controversial healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act, was passed into law, Republicans in Congress appear poised to repeal and replace it.
Dubbed “Obamacare”, the ACA’s various mandates punishing the uninsured, requiring employers to provide workers with insurance covering abortion-inducing birth control pills, and causing millions of Americans to lose their prior health insurance coverageת sparked a public outcry, energizing conservatives, mobilizing the nascent Tea Party movement, and led to the landslide Republican midterm congressional victory of 2010.
While congressional Republicans and presidential hopefuls in 2012 and 2016 pledged to repeal the ACA, no replacement bill was ever offered.
On Monday night, however, House Republicans publicized the text of the long-awaited replacement to the ACA.
“The Affordable Care Act is rapidly collapsing,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. The replacement bill, he pledged, will “give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.”
“Working together, this unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under ObamaCare. This will proceed through a transparent process of regular order in full view of the public.”
The replacement bill drops the ACA’s most unpopular features, while retaining or modifying certain aspects of the original law.
“We begin by repealing the awful taxes, the mandated penalties and the subsidies in ObamaCare,” House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady told Fox News.
Subsidies helping low income Americans purchase insurance will be substituted with tax credits, while the employer mandate and personal mandate will both be dropped.
The law also caps the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, limiting the additional funds to states for new Medicaid enrollees to cover those being covered prior to 2020.
"Today marks an important step toward restoring healthcare choices and affordability back to the American people,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, signaling the Trump administration’s support for the bill.
Congressional Democrats, however, slammed the bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused the Republican proposal of handing "billionaires a massive new tax break while shifting huge costs and burdens onto working families across America."
While Democrats control 48 seats in the Senate, enough to employ a filibuster, Republicans have introduced the bill as part of a budget reconciliation, a form of legislation which limits debate in the Senate, thus barring use of the filibuster and allowing a simple up-or-down vote.
The original 2010 ACA bill was also passed via a budget reconciliation, thus avoiding a likely Republican filibuster.