GOP scrambles for health-care votes
House Republicans struggled this week to secure enough votes to pass their latest attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act, amid a fierce debate over how the new legislation would affect people with pre-existing medical conditions. Under the latest version of the bill, states would be able to opt out of Obamacare’s “community rating” rule, which requires insurers to charge customers the same amount, regardless of pre-existing conditions. The change was designed to appeal to the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line conservative lawmakers who refused to endorse the GOP’s original replacement plan in March. But the amendment initially alienated influential moderate Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who said he would never vote for a bill that “torpedoes” protections for people with cancer and other illnesses. “They need to be covered,” said Upton. “Period.”
As a compromise, House Republican leaders proposed spending an additional $8 billion to help fund high-risk pools or other mechanisms that would help states lower costs for people with pre-existing conditions. After meeting with President Trump at the White House to discuss the proposal, Upton said he was on board—adding new momentum for a floor vote before a weeklong recess. The votes of many lawmakers remained uncertain, though, and the GOP could afford to lose only 22 lawmakers for the legislation to pass the House. The bill faces an even steeper climb in the Senate, where many moderate Republicans have already expressed strong reservations.
What the columnists said
The GOP’s attempt to replace Obamacare is beginning to seem like Groundhog Day, said David Leonhardt in The New York Times. Each time Republicans get close to a vote, the process becomes mired in chaos, potential rebellions, and overpromises by Trump. This week, the president almost undercut his own party’s repeal attempt by blithely promising that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered “beautifully.” The opposite is true.
Republicans have no choice but to rethink protections for preexisting conditions, said Chris Pope in NationalReview.com. By preventing insurers from “pricing plans in proportion to individuals’ expected costs of care,” Obamacare has forced healthy people to cover the costs of the chronically ill, sending premiums soaring. Still, high-risk pools aren’t the answer, said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. “States using pools in the past had to restrict coverage, create waiting lists,” and charge high premiums. Offsetting those problems nationwide would cost up to $50 billion each year—“a sum the GOP will never guarantee.”
The reason Republicans have struggled to repeal Obamacare is because many Republicans “do not want to repeal Obamacare,” said Byron York in WashingtonExaminer.com. Millions of Americans have gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion and the community-rating provision. Wherever this chaotic repeal effort takes us, one thing seems increasingly probable: “Large parts of Barack Obama’s legacy legislation will remain standing.”