What’s the Status of Obamacare Repeal Efforts?
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by Causes | 3.20.17
Congressional Republicans have been hoping for a real opportunity to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law ever since they took control of the House following the Affordable Care Act’s passage in 2010. And the public has generally had an unfavorable view of Obamacare — in over six years it has never had a favorable rating in the RealClearPolitics poll of polls, so there’s reason for them to feel empowered as this opportunity approaches.
But now that they have control of both chambers of Congress, and a receptive president taking office at the end of next week, divisions have emerged within the Republican Party about how to proceed.
What’s holding things up?
One of the main sources of contention is whether replacement policies should be enacted at the same time that Obamacare is repealed, or if they can afford to repeal first and replace after the fact. There are concerns that if a repeal occurs without a clear replacement lined up, it may cause insurers to cut back on their offerings and leave more Americans without health insurance coverage or cause premiums to increase even more than they already have.
Not only that, there’s also a wide variety of replacements for the healthcare law, but no specific proposal or group of proposals has yet received widespread support within Republican ranks. There is general agreement that the employer and individual mandates will be on the chopping block along with the medical device tax, and that requirements for insurers to provide "essential health benefits" will be eased. It’s expected that some current policies, such as those preventing the denial of people applying for coverage with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, will remain in place. But beyond that, it’s all up for debate at this stage.
The lack of certainty about what a replacement will look like could be alleviated in part after Inauguration Day when President-elect Trump can more directly influence discussions. And once his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, current Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), is confirmed that influence will carryover over to HHS, which has significant regulatory powers over the healthcare industry.
Where do things stand?
The Senate is currently debating a budget resolution that would start the repeal process and give relevant committees a January 27 deadline to produce legislation to repeal Obamacare. But a group of five Republicans, including Sens. Bob Corker (TN), Rob Portman (OH), Susan Collins (ME), Bill Cassidy (LA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have proposed delaying that deadline until March 3 to give Congress and the incoming administration more time to iron out the policy. The Senate has not yet voted on their amendment to the resolution, which should occur this week during a "vote-o-rama" scheduled for Wednesday.
When the budget resolution passes the Senate, it will head to the House and once it’s passed there the committees will be on the clock for producing a repeal bill. At that point, you can expect lawmakers to put forward detailed plans for a replacement, either in the form of one all-encompassing bill or through a piecemeal approach with multiple pieces of leigslation. We’ll have the details on those once they’re introduced, so stay tuned.
Have thoughts about a potential Obamacare replacement that you’d like to share with your lawmakers? Use the "Take Action" button below.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons)
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