U.S. House Republicans on Thursday narrowly approved a sweeping health care bill aimed at fulfilling their campaign promise to overturn the Affordable Care Act known as ‘ObamaCare.
The repeal came after the House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew the bill in March following impending defeat over failure to get enough Republicans votes, particularly, the Freedom Caucus, to approve the bill.
The vote for the revised American Health Care Act, televised on major networks, passed 217 to 213, crossing the 216 votes required for the repeal to pass, with no Democrats voting in favour while two Republicans abstained.
With the repeal, the replacement bill variously tagged ‘Trumpcare’ or ‘Ryancare’ now heads next to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate.
Speaking shortly after the bill passed, Ryan said: “A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote.
Capping a fiery debate moments before the vote, Ryan appealed to colleagues to move beyond ObamaCare, which he called a ‘collapsing law’ and ‘failed experiment’”.
Citing the situation in Iowa, where the last state-wide insurer is threatening to leave, Ryan said: “This is a crisis.
“What protection is ObamaCare if there is no health care plan to purchase in your state?”
After the original bill was pulled from the floor in March amid conservative resistance, Republican leaders won over some of those lawmakers by including waivers that states could claim pertaining to ObamaCare’s coverage requirements, including for those with pre-existing conditions.
On Monday, moderates in turn objected that constituents with pre-existing conditions could effectively be denied coverage by insurers charging them exorbitant premiums.
In a final adjustment, leaders added billions more to help people with pre-existing conditions afford coverage, while the conservative Club for Growth withdrew its opposition just before Thursday’s vote.
Republicans said a new health bill is necessary to curb rising premium costs and stop insurers from fleeing markets across the country.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said: “Doing nothing leaves too many Americans out in the cold. We tried the ObamaCare way. It is failing remarkably”.
Democrats, however, continued to kick against the legislation saying it would overhaul many key provisions of ObamaCare.
House Minority Leader, Democratic Nancy Pelosi, said on Thursday at a press conference: “This disastrous bill has been condemned by almost everyone.
“This is a scar that they will carry,” Pelosi said of House Republicans who voted for the plan.
She said the latest version is “worse” than the original and rejected claims that it would protect those with pre-existing conditions.
The health care vote was scheduled after the White House and congressional leaders flood rank-and-file holdouts with pressure in recent days and claimed they had the votes to prevail.
But in the Senate, some Republicans consider the House measure too harsh.
The bill would eliminate tax penalties of Obama’s law which has clamped down on people who don’t buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry.
It cuts the Medicaid programme for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.
It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance, largely based on people’s incomes and premium costs, into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.
The measure would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.