US House Passes Bill to Repeal, Replace Affordable Healthcare Act

Source: FirstWord

The US House of Representatives on Thursday voted 217 to 213 in favor of proposed legislation that would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Healthcare Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010. It is unclear whether the measure will be passed in its current form in the Senate, where the bill is now headed. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan remarked that a continuation of Obamacare would be intolerable as "it means even higher premiums, even fewer choices, even more insurance companies pulling out, even more uncertainty and even more chaos."

In March, Republican lawmakers in the House withdrew a measure aimed at overhauling the Affordable Healthcare Act. Republicans have since redrafted the bill to allow state governments to roll back required coverage for essential services, such as maternity and emergency care. Additionally, states could seek waivers that would let insurers charge higher premiums for customers with pre-existing medical conditions. Further, insurers would be given more freedom, with state approval, to sell less-comprehensive health plans and to adjust their prices, in an effort to spur competition and reduce premiums. 

The bill, known as the American Healthcare Act, would also repeal many of the taxes that the current law imposes on drug companies, insurers and high-income people, among others. Further, the proposed legislation would reduce funding for Medicaid, and end the health programme's status as an open-ended entitlement. States would either receive an allotment of federal money for each beneficiary, or they could receive the money in a lump sum, with fewer federal requirements.

Meanwhile, the bill would eliminate tax penalties for people who forgo health insurance, and also proposes annual tax credits of $2000 to $4000 to replace government-subsidised insurance policies that are offered exclusively on the Affordable Healthcare Act's marketplaces. The credits would be reduced for individuals making over $75 000 a year and for families making over $150 000. However, health insurance companies would still be required to sell plans to people with pre-existing conditions, and young people could still remain on their parents' plans until age 26.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the first version of the bill would have trimmed the federal budget deficit considerably, but would also have left 24 million more people in the US without health insurance coverage after a decade. The latest vote occurred before the Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis of the revised bill with its cost and impact. 

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