On Feb. 3, 2015, the House voted to pass a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the health-care related provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 with a 239 to 186 vote.
While bills aimed at repealing the ACA were introduced in past terms, this marked the first time the new Congress considered its own legislation to repeal the ACA. Importantly, the new representatives whose recent campaigns for Congressional seats were focused on repeal of the ACA had their first chance to vote on the repeal legislation sponsored by Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.).
The new legislation directs the Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, Education and the Workforce, and Ways and Means committees to replace the ACA by drafting legislation that meets the following twelve goals: “(1) foster economic growth and private sector job creation by eliminating job-killing policies and regulations; (2) lower health care premiums through increased competition and choice; (3) preserve a patient’s ability to keep his or her health plan if he or she likes it; (4) provide people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage; (5) reform the medical liability system to reduce unnecessary and wasteful health care spending; (6) increase the number of insured Americans; (7) protect the doctor-patient relationship; (8) provide the States greater flexibility to administer Medicaid programs; (9) expand incentives to encourage personal responsibility for health care coverage and costs; (10) prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions and provide conscience protections for health care providers; (11) eliminate duplicative government programs and wasteful spending; (12) do not accelerate the insolvency of entitlement programs or increase the tax burdens on Americans” (H.R. 596. 1/28/2015).
Interestingly, this vote marks the 56th time House Republicans have voted to repeal or modify the ACA since its enactment in 2010 and, although the majority voted to pass the bill, three Republicans voted against the legislation. As expected, no Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
Additionally, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently introduced legislation supported by forty-four co-sponsors entitled the “Obamacare Repeal Act,” that also proposes a complete repeal of the ACA within 180 days of the bill’s passage into law.
Both the House bill and the Obamacare Repeal Act in the Senate propose that once the ACA is repealed, the provisions of law that were amended or repealed by the ACA are to be “restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted” (S.B. 339, 2/2/2015).
Senator Cruz and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who heads a “leadership working group” composed of the heads of the committees tasked with to crafting an ACA replacement, both indicated that repeal of the ACA would give Congress an opportunity to move forward with drafting replacement health reform options to better serve the needs of the American people.
The White House responded to the new Congress’ decision to pass the bill with an official statement of policy detailing the loss of affordable insurance coverage for millions of Americans and a marked increase in Medicare spending. The White House further stated that, should it make it to President Barack Obama’s desk, he will certainly veto the bill.
It is unlikely that lawmakers will be able to overcome their disagreements on the ability of the ACA to effectively achieve the goals outlined by the new House bill. However, it seems even more unlikely that a complete repeal of the law will ever come to pass.