House Republicans are ringing in the New Year with a vote to repeal Obamacare. The bill that passed through the Senate 52-47 last year faces a final house vote today. In addition to punishing Planned Parenthood for one year by removing all federal funding, the bill would eliminate the mandates requiring Americans to purchase health insurance and employers to provide it.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan has promised to “replace every word of Obamacare,” lawmakers are still unsure how to replace the failed health insurance plan on which millions of Americans now depend.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy considers today’s vote to repeal Obamacare an important step even though the President is sure to veto it. “Passing and sending an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk will set America up for a new patient-centered health care system that gives families the power over their health care decisions instead of Washington bureaucrats,” explains McCarthy.
Republicans view this bill as a sort of test run for a more serious attempt to repeal Obamacare next year – hopefully with a Republican president.
Democratic lawmakers, on the other hand, complain that repealing Obamacare will do more harm than good if there is not a system in place to replace it. “Republicans’ claims about working on an alternative have always been nothing more than a talking point,” whines Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “What is real is that their first week back in session in 2016, they will vote to take health care away from 22 million Americans.”
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton supports Obamacare with the argument that Republicans are trying to destroy the system simply because they “just want to undo what Democrats have fought for decades and what President Obama got accomplished.”
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, sworn in just last month, has a different approach. Instead of undoing his predecessor’s efforts in regards to Obamacare (which included an important Medicaid expansion), he has decided to seek a waiver from the government allowing him to tack on GOP-supported reforms to Medicaid. Republicans in Iowa, Indiana, and Arkansas have similar plans and are working to modify and enhance the program rather that get rid of it.
Political analysts are convinced that any repeal of Obamacare would have to be gradual in order to ensure coverage for a majority of Americans. “It will be tough to replace all of it in one fell swoop,” says Professor G. Terry Madonna. “Millions now have ACA coverage of one kind or another. Anything [the GOP does] requires a phase in – probably several years.” Madonna teaches politics at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.
House Republicans will plan their next steps next week during a conference retreat in Maryland. Proposals include the idea of block grants from Congress that would give states more control over Medicaid, allowing insurance companies to sell products in multiple states, and offering tax credits to help low-income families purchase insurance.
“There are a lot of other ideas out there, but what all conservatives can agree on it this: We think government should encourage personal responsibility, not replace it,” says Speaker Ryan. “There are many things to do, but most urgent is to repeal and replace Obamacare.”