The U.S. House voted Wednesday (Jan. 6) to send a bill, already passed by the Senate, to President Barack Obama’s desk that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut all spending for Planned Parenthood.
This will be the first time a bill repealing Obamacare has made it to Obama, who is expected to veto it, setting up an override vote that will fall short of the necessary two-thirds majority.
All four of Arkansas’ House members voted for the Senate amendment to H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, after U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton voted for it Dec. 3. The House had passed the bill without the Senate amendment on Oct. 23 by a vote of 240-189. All six members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation are Republicans.
The House and Senate versions specifically repeal health exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion that in Arkansas has made possible the private option, which purchases private insurance for individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Both versions repeal individual and employer mandate penalties and taxes on medical devices as well as the excise tax on high-cost employer health plans, otherwise known as the “Cadillac Tax.” Both end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the organization which, among other services, provides abortions.
The Senate version also repeals premium tax credits for individuals purchasing health insurance on a health exchange and repeals payments to insurers to reduce cost-sharing paid by qualified persons. Medicaid expansion specifically would be repealed beginning in 2018. Various taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act would be repealed as of Jan. 1 of this year.
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have estimated that passing the bill would reduce deficits by $516 billion between 2016-2025.
In a press conference Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress used the budget reconciliation process to pass a repeal bill because Senate Democrats have used other tools to block those efforts.
“With this bill, we are standing for life. We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: Obamacare doesn’t work,” Ryan said.
At that press conference, Fourth District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said, “Today is an exciting day when we’re going to get to see the process of reconciliation work, where we will put a bill on the president’s desk and give him the choice to support the American people or to reject the will of Congress and the will of the American people.
“There’s a lot of good things in this bill that have already been talked about. One thing I would like to highlight: This bill does repeal Medicaid expansion. This is one of the most egregious parts of Obamacare. If you look at traditional Medicaid, it’s for the aged, blind, and the disabled. Medicaid expansion is for able-bodied, working age adults. We pay 57 percent of the cost to states for traditional Medicaid for the aged, blind, and disabled, yet we’re paying 90 percent to 100 percent of the cost for Medicaid expansion. Today’s a good day. I’m excited to be a part of Congress and a part of the Republican conference.”
In a statement, Third District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said, “For the first time, Congress has placed a repeal of the most onerous parts of Obamacare and an elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood on President Obama’s desk, forcing him to make a tough choice: Respect the will of the American people or protect his namesake law and Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, his decision will be disappointingly predictable.”
First District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said in a statement, ”In addition to repealing the most harmful portions of Obamacare, tonight’s vote also blocks federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is still under investigation by U.S. House committees for the terrible allegations against the organization that came to light last year. This bill demonstrates a Congress united in both protecting life and quality healthcare, but also a Congress committed to fiscal solvency in the face of our nation’s growing national debt, which currently stands at more than $18 trillion.”
Second District U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said in a statement, “As House Republicans have said for some time now, the best path toward killing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood is through budget reconciliation. For those in Congress who are determined to gut Obamacare in its entirety, today signifies a major win in bringing down the fortress Harry Reid and Senate Democrats have built around this disaster of a law. Today likely won’t be the end of the road in this fight, but if the president vetoes this bill, it will be clear to the American people that Washington Democrats not only created the problem, but they are also now unmistakably responsible for blocking the solution.”