House Republicans Pass American Health Care Act

Amendments allow states to waive essential health benefits and add $8 billion for high-risk pools

House Speaker Paul Ryan / Getty Images
• May 4, 2017 2:22 pm


House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act, Speaker Paul Ryan's (R., Wis.) replacement to the Affordable Care Act on a 217 to 213 vote. The original legislation was pulled from a vote more than a month ago.

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans introduced the original bill, which eliminated Obamacare's taxes and individual and employer mandates, while attempting to keep some of the Affordable Care Act's provisions, such as protecting those with preexisting conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plan until 26.

The original bill could not garner enough support to pass as members of the House Freedom Caucus said that the replacement did little to deliver on the Republican promise to fully repeal Obamacare. The House Tuesday Group, which is made up of more moderate Republicans, said the measure did not do enough to cover individuals and provide substantial premium subsidies.

Last night, the House Rules Committee voted to advance amendments included in the American Health Care Act, which include the ability for states to waive essential health benefits as well as an amendment to include an $8 billion fund for high-risk pools.

One of the amendments, introduced by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), co-chair of the Tuesday Group, allows states to obtain a waiver from federal standards such as essential health benefits and community rating rules. This measure gained the support of House Freedom Caucus members, who said it will significantly lower health costs, even if it does not fully repeal Obamacare.

"The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original AHCA," said the House Freedom Caucus. "While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower health care costs."

Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) adds $8 billion to the Patient and State Stability Fund, which helps reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

"This amendment would provide additional funding, $8 billion over five years, to ensure a strong safety net and reduce premiums, or other out-of-pocket costs, for those with preexisting conditions," said Upton.

Following the amendment, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the White House supported the measure and that President Trump has been working to ensure that Americans have more affordable care.

"Overall the efforts that were made, and especially the effort this morning with congressmen Long and Upton, help bring more people into this effort and make it even a stronger bill, and ensure that Americans have a health care system that gets them the care that they need at a price that's affordable," Spicer said.

"The president has been on the phone constantly," Spicer said. "I think we have made this an unbelievable bill and an unbelievable replacement for Obamacare, which is failing, and that's what we've sought to do from the beginning."