HASH(0xbef96c)

Obamacare is now one-third replaced: Here’s why Democrats greeted it with a song

U.S.: Obamacare is one-third replaced

WASHINGTON — More than 50 years after Canada moved toward universal health coverage, and 70 years after it happened in England and France, the U.S. Congress took a baby step in the other direction Thursday, advancing a bill that would eliminate health care for millions.

It won’t likely make it through the Senate in its current form.

But the passage of that bill through the House of Representatives was greeted as a momentous event by both parties: By Republicans as proof their majority could get something done, by President Donald Trump as a legislative win, and by Democrats as an electoral gift.

Democrats in fact erupted in mock celebration the instant the bill squeezed through the chamber with a 217-213 vote — teasing their Republican rivals, waving, singing, ”Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.”

That’s because they’re counting on Republicans being turfed in next year’s midterm elections over what they say the bill does: help the wealthy, the biggest winners in hundreds of billions in tax cuts; hurt the poor, millions of whom would lose coverage; increase premiums for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer; and anger the nation’s main seniors’ lobby group.

“You have walked the plank,” predicted Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the chamber.

“You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one.”

The bill’s effects are hard to gauge.

It was rushed to a vote before the congressional budget watchdog had a chance to assess it. An earlier evaluation of the bill in a previous form concluded it would have removed insurance from 24 million people.

Another reason it’s hard to predict the impact is because key coverage decisions would belong to the states. One such decision involves whether to restrict access to the U.S. Medicaid program, which provides coverage for the very poorest Americans.

Republicans savoured the moment.

Trump invited the victorious party over to the White House for a celebratory press conference. Desperate for a legislative win, he wanted something passed by the chamber, so he could move onto more politically popular issues — like tax cuts and infrastructure.

Earlier efforts crashed. 

Previous versions of the bill kept stumbling into opposition from the party’s right wing, or its left wing — ultimately satisfying neither, clogging up valuable congressional time, and undermining Trump’s personal brand as a deal-maker.

The Republican House leader cast it as a simple matter: keeping promises. Republicans pledged repeatedly to undo Barack Obama’s unpopular bill. In fact, they rode the tsunami of popular anger to congressional gains in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

“A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote,” said Paul Ryan, the House Speaker.

“Are we going to be men and women of our word? Are we going to keep the promises we made?”

The other Republican rationale for this bill was that the current Obamacare system is falling apart and unsustainable. Republicans pointed to the skyrocketing number of counties without insurance competition, with just one provider or none.

Trump referred to those problems in a ceremonious get-together in the White House Rose Garden: ”Wherever I went (in the campaign), people were suffering so badly, because of the ravages of Obamacare… It’s dead.”

That only tells part of the Obamacare story.

The rate of Americans without health insurance has declined, from 18 per cent to 10 per cent, under Obama’s 2010 health reform. Democrats say it would be even better, had the project not been sabotaged by Republicans — who, for instance, removed federal protection for struggling insurance plans.

The bill has now completed one-third of its journey with Thursday’s vote.

It still must pass the Senate, and can do so with a simple majority vote under the rules for financial measures. But it’s expected several Republicans will demand changes. Then the bill would go to a reconciliation conference, where both chambers negotiate a final version.

Senate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the current bill.

Ohio’s Rob Portman said he agrees with the general objective of replacing Obamacare with a more sustainable alternative. But he said he doesn’t support the current version, as he fears the watering-down of Medicare will worsen the opioid crisis.

”These changes must be made in a way that does not leave people behind,” he said in a statement. 

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Community Leader Awards: Anja Dumas

The Kelowna Capital News puts the spotlight on community leaders with annual awards

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Blowing snow, slippery sections on Okanagan Connector

Compact snow, poor visibility on Highway 97 from Pennask Summitt to Brenda Mines.

IH adds immunization clinic Sunday in Kelowna

Drop-in meningococcal vaccination clinic on today at Community Health & Services Centre

Fire crews investigating oil sheen on Penticton Creek

Fire crews are working to contain the oil from spreading

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Family suspends search for missing Alberta couple, plane near Revelstoke

Due to bad weather, families of missing Albertan couple say they will resume in the spring

Fire crews investigating oil sheen on Penticton Creek

Fire crews are working to contain the oil from spreading

UBCO prof tests software to help cancer patients

Program may help those reluctant to engage ‘tough conversations’ in advance care planning

Broken de-icer delays flights at Kelowna airport

Passengers were on board for three hours Sunday waiting for departure to Vancouver

Canadian grocers make $3M per year from penny-rounding: UBC study

Ottawa announced plans in 2012 to phase out the copper coin

Well-known Canadian bird making a comeback

Once on the brink of extinction, the peregrine falcon no longer considered at risk in Canada.

Suzuki: Shine a light during dark times

People need to remain positive despite difficult and unpredictable political climate

Most Read