Arkansas House members vote for GOP plan to replace Obamacare

by George Jared ([email protected]) 510 views 

President Donald Trump was in desperate need of a signature legislative accomplishment and Arkansas’ congressional delegation was happy to oblige. The President now waits for the Senate to act.

All four of the state’s congressmen on Thursday (May 4) voted for the American Healthcare Act, a replacement of President Barack Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare.

The bill was passed 217-213 with all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting against the bill. It passed by the slimmest of margins, and it will face a tough challenge in the Senate.

The bill would remove tax penalties for those who don’t have insurance, it would reduce Medicaid expansion in some states, and it would eliminate government subsidies for insurance and replaced them with tax credits. It establishes federally funded pools for high-risk individuals, among other changes. The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, analyzed the original bill and determined as many as 24 million could lose their healthcare as a result of this plan, but in the short-term, it would reduce the federal budget deficit.

Following are other key points of the House plan.
• Insurers would be able to charge older ratepayers five times more than younger ratepayers, as opposed to the 3:1 ratio allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

• The ACA’s ban on insurers setting lifetime and annual dollar limits would be retained, but it would apply only to those essential health benefits.

• Several ACA tax increases would be repealed, including a Medicare tax increase for high-income individuals.

• The bill adds a 30% late enrollment penalty for individuals who let their coverage lapse, and ends the tax penalty to large employers who do not provide health coverage.

• The AHCA also makes significant changes to Medicaid, including capping payments per enrollee.

• Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics would be banned for one year.

• The bill also does not change the ACA’s requirement that children up to age 26 be eligible for their parents’ insurance coverage.

Democrats gleefully taunted their Republican colleagues with the chat “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye,” hinting the bill could cost moderate Republicans their seats in 2018. Recent polls have shown growing support for Obamacare. A Pew Research Center Poll published Feb. 23 indicated that 54% approve of Obamacare, while 43% disapprove. The survey was conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults. Among voters who identified as independent, 53% support Obamacare.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, didn’t support the bill when it was first introduced in March. In an interview with Talk Business & Politics, Crawford said the bill has been revised, and it will allow individuals to have more control over their healthcare.

“It really restores a lot of control back to the states,” Crawford said.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said the current healthcare law doesn’t allow for competition and many insurance companies are pulling out of exchanges because it is not profitable. In some states, there are few insurance options and this trend has to change, he said.

“The status quo is not working for Arkansas and not working for our country. The reform measure that we advanced today will lower the cost of care for individuals and families, provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and shift power back to the states with added flexibility in determining what policies will have the most positive outcomes on their own citizens and populations. What works in Arkansas might not work in California and this bill reflects that important understanding,” Hill said.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, admitted the bill will likely be revised in the Senate, but said the House plan is a good start. He said he wants Obamacare replaced, and he wants a “free market approach to healthcare.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said premiums are skyrocketing across the country, and something has to be done to help relieve burdens placed on small businesses. This was the signature issue he ran on when he first sought office in 2010, he said.

When the Senate will take action on the bill wasn’t immediately known. Congress is reportedly on an 11-day recess following the vote.