WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Republicans on Thursday narrowly passed their beleaguered health care bill by a 217-213 vote not six weeks after a similar bill was defeated for lack of support.
The revised American Health Care Act heads next to the Senate where, if approved, it will replace the Affordable Care Act put into law by the previous Obama administration.
In the end, 20 Republicans voted against the bill, as did all Democrats on record Thursday afternoon. As voting came to an end, House Democrats broke out into a chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”, but Republicans eventually got their way.
Upon hearing the news of the vote, President Trump invited Republican lawmakers to the White House for a celebratory press conference.
“Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who credited “the determination, the perseverance and the leadership of Donald Trump” for the passage of the bill.
“What a great group of people, and they’re not even doing it for the party, they’re doing it for the country,” president Trump said as he stood with fellow Republicans in the Rose Garden. “Yes, premiums will be coming down, deductibles will be coming down.”
As Republicans cheered, the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbying group was more aloof in their response to the House’s passage of the bill.
“Ensuring patients have access to the medicines they need is our top priority. As Congress considers reforms to our health care system, we look forward to continuing to work with them to enhance the competitive market, ensure patients have access to affordable health care and foster the continued development of new innovative medicines,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, said in a statement.
Democrats, however, were quick to berate the Republicans’ triumph.
“The “health care” bill that Republicans passed today is an absolute disaster,” former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted after the announcement of the bill’s passage.
“Here are the white men who just made domestic violence, sexual assault, C-sections and postpartum depression pre-existing conditions. #AHCA,” tweeted Amy Siskind, President and Co-Founder of The New Agenda, an advocacy group for women’s and LGBTQ rights.
“This disastrous bill has been condemned by almost everyone,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday during a press conference after the vote. Pelosi said latest version is “worse” than the original and scoffed at claims that it would protect those with pre-existing conditions.
“This is a scar that they will carry,” she said of those who voted yes to pass the bill.
But Republicans seemed unfettered by their Democratic colleagues’ bitter response.
“We want to brag about the plan,” Trump said during the post-vote celebration. “Hey, I’m president!”
The bill effectively eliminates tax penalties put into place by ObamaCare, and removes tax increases that higher income earners health industries were hit with under the Affordable Care Act. The bill also allows states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.
If passed into law, the bill will also retain the ObamaCare mandate that family policies cover grown children until the age of 26.
Critics say states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements and, with waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses at higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they determine to be fair and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services such as obstetrics and mental health care.
The bill would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a period of at least 12 months, a fact that is considered in and of itself a victory by many pro-life Republicans.