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GOP Health Reform Bill Clears First Two Hurdles: What Is Next?

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Republicans just moved one step closer to fulfilling their promises to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (ACA). How much further do they have to go?

Pretty far. The legislation — The American Health Care Act (more) — that the Republicans are hoping to use to topple the ACA is likely to look a lot different if it gets approved in both the House and the Senate.

Still, The American Health Care Act cleared its first two hurdles — getting passed by the Comittees on Ways and Means as well as Energy and Commerce — on the strength of mostly party-line votes.

The legislation will now move on to the Budget Committee. It is on track to reach the upper chamber of the House by late March, or early April. But there are a lot of doubts — even among Republicans — whether the bill will gain enough support in the House to move along to the Senate.

Deliberations over the bill were long in the Ways and Means and Energy committees as Democrats tried to tag a number of amendments onto the legislation, such as:

  • language to eliminate the per-capital caps on Medicaid the bill would enact beginning in 2020
  • removing the part of the bill that would defund Planned Parenthood for a year
  • renaming the bill the "Republican Pay More for Less Care Act"
  • a full repeal of the "Cadillac" tax, which would take effect in 2025 under the legislation
  • language that would prohibit an increase in the number of uninsured individuals
  • an ability for states to opt out of the bill and continue to operate under the ACA, and
  • a prohibition on the increase in out-of-pocket costs or reduced availability of benefits for those 55 and older.

Republicans blocked each of these amendments.

Still, a number of Republicans in Congress have voiced their displeasure over the bill. Some of their main criticisms include:

  • the House is trying to push the bill through too quickly — and not waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to score it to see whether it will increase costs to the federal government or if/how many Americans may lose insurance under the bill
  • the bill's advanceable, refundable tax credits — which will replace the ACA's subsidies — maintain government entitlements that were supposed to be removed or minimized with the repeal of the ACA
  • it does not do enough to curtail the ACA's Medicaid expansion (meanwhile Democrats have voiced that the bill's curtailment of the Medicaid expansion goes to far), and
  • some ACA insurance coverage mandates will remain in place.

President Trump has expressed a willingness to negotiate details in the legislation to enable its passage, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said the bill represents the GOP's best shot at replacing the ACA. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas told the The Washington Post that the bill, as is, cannot pass the Senate. He also expressed that he does not think it will even reach the Senate floor.

Several Republicans have echoed those sentiments. As a result, it appears The American Health Care Act may be in for some major revisions.

Posted In: Congressional Activity; Affordable Care Act (ACA); Executive Branch

Want to know more? Read the full article by Christian Schappel at HR Morning

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