In the wee small hours of Thursday morning, the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), achieved its first congressional hurdle, passing the House Ways and Means Committee 23-16. This vote took place at 4:30 am after the committee spent 18 hours deliberating the bill.
The lengthy process was largely due to the fact that the Democrats insisted that the 123-page bill be read aloud. As of this writing, the AHCA is still being deliberated by the House Energy Committee. The next step is for the bill to go the House Budget Committee. It is expected to be scored next week.
Then the AHCA goes to the full House for a vote before it is passed to the Senate where it is certain to face more opposition. At least eight Republican senators have expressed opposition or serious reservations about the bill, including Senator Rand Paul (KY), who was the architect of a competing Obamacare replacement bill, Senator Ted Cruz (TX) and Senator Mike Lee (Utah).
The AHCA, which has received President Donald Trump’s seal of approval, has been referred to by the Republicans who do not support it as “Obamacare Lite,” because it continues until 2020 the expansion of Medicaid, which ballooned under Obamacare. Republican organizations including the Freedom Caucus, Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity have also professed their opposition to the AHCA.
The tea party activist group FreedomWorks has announced that they will be implementing a six-figure ad buy against the AHCA. “Our activists are furious at this betrayal and at this step toward breaking campaign promises made for the better part of the decade,” said Noah Wall, national director of campaigns. “We are going to mobilize them. We will let them know that many political candidates who won on a message of repealing ObamaCare and are backsliding.”
FreedomWorks will be hosting a Day of Action against the Obamacare replacement on Wednesday March 20 at Senate Park with 1,000 activists. Participants will include Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Democrats oppose the AHCA, because they believe that the lower income individuals, including seniors, will spend more on healthcare with this plan than with the Affordable Care Act. AARP, the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association have also issued public statements against the bill.
It is important to remember that the AHCA is currently in its first phase. The second and third phases will include additional components including the possibility to buy insurance across state lines and reductions in drug pricing which will all help to lower overall costs. Furthermore, it has only been a few days since the bill has been introduced. It is certain to go through additional markups as it passes through the House before it even makes it to the Senate.
Said another way, we need to give the Obamacare repeal and replace process a chance.
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