U.S. House passes bill to repeal and replace Obamacare

2017 05 04 13 24 00 941 Capitol Hill2 400

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," on May 4. The bill gives states more control over the essential services they cover, including pediatric dental care.

The House passed the Republican healthcare bill, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) mostly along party lines, with 20 Republicans voting against it and no Democrats voting for it, for a final 217-213 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to go through substantial changes to avoid a filibuster by Democrats.

"This is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare -- make no mistake of that," U.S. President Donald Trump said in a press conference after the vote. "Yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down. ... Most importantly, this is a great plan."

Giving states control

The House was originally supposed to vote on the AHCA in March. However, the bill did not have support to pass, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) pulled the bill minutes before the vote.

“This is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare -- make no mistake of that.”
— U.S. President Donald Trump

Since then, the AHCA has undergone several revisions, including one new amendment that would allow states to waive essential health benefits, including pediatric dental care, prescription drugs, and emergency services. The new bill also allows states to waive community ratings, which requires insurance providers to offer the same policy price to all persons, regardless of health status, gender, or pre-existing conditions.

The Congressional Budget Office did not have time to review the bill with the new amendments before the vote on May 4. However, the office previously estimated that it would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years but also leave 24 million people without insurance.

The bill will give states more control over insurance policies and help to lower premiums and deductibles for families, Ryan said.

"Let's return power from Washington to the states," he said before the bill went to a vote. "Let's help give people peace of mind. Let's put the patients, not the bureaucrats at the center of the system,"

Meanwhile, Democrats argue that the bill would raise health insurance premiums and deductibles, especially for those with pre-existing conditions who benefit from community rating. In her remarks before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the AHCA a tax bill in disguise and criticized the Republicans for voting on the bill before the Congressional Budget Office reviewed the amendments.

"If Republicans thought they were really protecting people, they wouldn't be afraid of the facts," she said. "They're afraid that the American people will find out that this is not a healthcare bill. This is a tax bill disguised as healthcare bill."

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