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home : most recent : statewide implications August 16, 2017

5/5/2017 4:39:00 PM
EDITORIAL: Health care battle far from over; House bill will face trouble in Senate


The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives finally got itself an Obamacare repeal-replace plan together that could pass — barely — a vote of its members.

While the House GOP may be celebrating, the majority of Americans most likely are not.

The latest plan was cobbled together to satisfy the hard right wing of the House caucus, which had contributed to the failure of earlier plans. Although there was still a number of moderate Republicans who rejected the new plan, enough tweaks were made to allow some of them to join what eventually proved to be a slight 217-213 majority.

The plan now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. The GOP has only a 52-48 advantage there, and several Republican senators are on record as opposing the House approach to Obamacare repeal-replace efforts.

Indiana's 8th District U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon voted in favor. While Bucshon's vote was expected, it's no less distressing.

According to the Associated Press, GOP leaders added a modest pool of money to help people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage, a concern that caused a near-fatal rebellion among Republicans in recent days.

The bill would eliminate tax penalties under 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, the AP reported. It cuts the Medicaid program 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.

It would also retain Obama's requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

There was little argument that there were elements of the Affordable Care Act that needed fixing. But it was not collapsing, as Republicans claimed. And most people, according to public opinion polling, had grown to approve of the ACA. The law expanded health coverage to 20 million Americans. What happens to them if this bill becomes law, no one really knows. The GOP did not even wait for a Congressional Budget Office review to pass the latest plan in an attempt to get it through the House before a national backlash could develop.

The nonpartisan CBO estimated in March that the GOP bill would end coverage for 24 million people over a decade. That office also said the bill's subsidies would be less generous for many, especially lower-earning and older people not yet 65 and qualifying for Medicare.

Since then, the bill hasn't changed much. But the changes which were approved Thursday will most likely make the adverse impact of the plan even worse.

The fight over the future of Obamacare is far from over. The CBO will weigh in. And the American people have not yet been heard. Many of these lawmakers, including those in Indiana who joined Bucshon to vote for it, will soon hear from those who would be hurt by the plan. We doubt they'll be joining in on the celebration.

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Congress exempts themselves from AHCA

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