Republicans have been chaffing about it since April 9, 2009, when formerly Republican Senator Arlen Specter (Pa.) defected to the Democratic Party. His intention was to provide the one seat necessary to form a Democratic supermajority in the senate and ramrod approval of the Affordable Care Act insurance plan in 2010.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump continually referred to Obamacare as “a disaster,” and promised voters that one of the first things he would do if he was elected president was to get rid of Obamacare. In fact, “repeal and replace” became a mantra for Trump supporters.
Finally, after a very long wait, the Republicans delivered to the nation the “replacement” for Obamacare. Known as the American Health Care Act, it represents sweeping legislation that would repeal ObamaCare taxes along with the so-called individual and employer mandates, which penalizes people for not buying insurance.
While it seems this would be a real feather in the cap of the Republicans, the new legislation is already, of course, heavily under fire from the Democrats and even some Republicans. It’s certainly not the panacea many people hoped it would be. “Repeal and replace” was great alliteration. But it wasn’t exactly do-able in the final analysis. Now, it appears we may be left with “repeal some” and “replace some.”
Some key changes proposed in this new legislation would:
- Replace Obamacare subsidies with tax credits for individuals. The credits, from between $2,000 and $14,000 a year, depending on age, can be used by individuals and families to purchase a state-certified plan.The credits start at $2,000 per person and grow to $4,000 with age. Families can receive up to $14,000.
- Maintain protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions by keeping insurers from denying coverage or charging more.
- Continue to allow young adults 26 and under to stay on their parent’s plans.
- Increase the amount of money that can be contributed to a health savings account for those with high-deductible insurance, up to $6,550 for an individual, or $13,100 for a family.
- Give states $100 billion over a decade to design their own programs to help those with lower incomes to afford insurance.
- Discontinue Obama’s expansion of Medicaid for low-earning Americans in 2020.
- Eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
- Overhaul federal-state Medicaid programs to limit federal financing based on enrollment and other state costs.
- Eliminate tax increases in 2018 on individuals and businesses with higher incomes and revenues in support Obamacare.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the new American Health Care Act would “drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.” On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, didn’t have quite the same rosy outlook.
“It looks like Obamacare Lite to me … It’s going to have to be better,” Paul said. One way it will have to be better is by figuring out who will pay for it. Nobody knows yet what the cost of this legislation will be and what it will do to the U.S. government’s bottom line.
“Paying for all this is going to be a big issue”
“Paying for all this is going to be a big issue,” said Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute think tank. Antos went on to point out that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) will view the Medicaid reductions as too small to make up for the loss in tax revenues.
While “repeal and replace Obamacare” was part of almost every one of his campaign speeches, President Trump has been fairly silent while the Republicans have been hammering out the first draft of the bill. In a tweet on Monday, Trump said it’s “time to end this nightmare.”
This piece of insurance legislation will go to the Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees on Wednesday, where it will be “marked up” and a final version created. It is hoped that the legislation is slated to go before the House Budget Committee next week, and then make it to the floor of the House for a vote the following week, before the Easter holiday.