On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to provide a final audit of the American Health Care Act’s impact, and should that audit show savings of less than $2 billion, House Republicans will be forced to rework the bill, much of which is unconstitutional and socialistic, in order for the Senate to be able to use special rules to pass the bill with a simple majority.
Fox News reports:
House Republicans say a re-vote is unlikely. But the possibility has leaders in a wait-and-see mode — and there’s no guarantee a revised bill could pass on a second vote, considering the backlash some Republican members experienced in their districts after the first round.
House Democrats have seized upon the possibility of a do-over, with Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, openly questioning House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the matter.
“Will another vote be necessary?” Hoyer asked the California Republican last week on the House floor.
When McCarthy appeared to answer indirectly, Hoyer continued: “They think they’re not complying with the Byrd rule. … They may have to vote again. … They have no idea what the CBO is going to come up with next week. I would hope the majority leader would give us a clear picture if we are going to consider this bill again or send it to the United States Senate, flawed as it may be.”
The “Byrd rule” is the provision that would allow the Senate to pass such a deficit-reducing bill with a simple, 51-vote majority. This is known as the budget reconciliation process, and could spare GOP leaders from having to corral an almost-impossible 60 votes to pass an ObamaCare replacement bill.
Obviously, there is a question of whether or not the bill is even constitutional. It maintains 90% of Obamacare’s framework.
I previously reported on Republican Congressman Justin Amash (MI), who voted in favor of the bill not because it was constitutional, but because it made Obamacare “better.”
According to Amash, the AHCA repeals less than 10 percent of the provisions of Obamacare. In his words, “It is an amendment to the ACA that deliberately maintains Obamacare’s framework. It reformulates but keeps tax credits to subsidize premiums. Instead of an individual mandate to purchase insurance, it mandates a premium surcharge of 30 percent for one year following a lapse of coverage. And the bill continues to preserve coverage for dependents up to age 26 and people with pre-existing conditions.”
That last point, Amash went on to emphasize writing, “The bill does not change the ACA’s federal requirements on guaranteed issue (prohibition on policy denial), essential health benefits (minimum coverage), or community rating (prohibition on pricing based on health status). In short, Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions provisions are retained.”
Amash also said that the latest version of the bill does allow states to seek waivers from certain insurance mandates, but they are “limited in scope” and “guaranteed issue cannot be waived.” Additionally, no one can be treated differently based on gender, and those who have continuous coverage (no lapse for more than 62 days), cannot be charged more regardless of their health status.
The Michigan congressman went on to explain the effects of that portion of the legislation.
“Consider what this means: Even in a state that waives as much as possible, a person with a pre-existing condition cannot be prevented from purchasing insurance at the same rate as a healthy person,” Amash wrote. “The only requirement is that the person with the pre-existing condition get coverage—any insurer, any plan—within 62 days of losing any prior coverage.”
“If a person chooses not to get coverage within 62 days, then that person can be charged more (or less) based on health status for up to one year, but only (1) in lieu of the 30 percent penalty (see above), (2) if the person lives in a state that has established a program to assist individuals with pre-existing conditions, and (3) if that state has sought and obtained the relevant waiver,” he continued. “Here in Michigan, our Republican governor has already stated he won’t seek such a waiver, according to reports.”
This comes from a man who voted for the bill, but is skeptical of it. I can at least appreciate his honesty about that, but the fact of the matter is that the American people were promised a full repeal of Obamacare, not a reform or replacement of Obamacare.
The bill failed miserably in its first attempt and was pulled from a vote on the House floor, but after a few changes to appease people who would not hold the standards of the Constitution, it passed with a vote of 217-213.
As far as the CBO is concerned, they have already said it would be better to have a full repeal of Obamacare, something that has been introduced in one-page legislation here and here than to be toying with it the way Congress has done with these first two bills.
We’ll see what comes out on Wednesday.