Washington, D.C.- In a late-night session of votes, Republicans in the Senate took the first steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, through budget reconciliation. During the marathon session of votes, steps were taken to de-fund key elements of the law that make benefits like pre-existing conditions and preventative care possible without adding protections for the people who will be most impacted by the changes.
During a Wednesday, January 11, 2017, Senate legislative session, Republicans voted to for a budget resolution which instructs Congress to begin dismantling funding for the health care law. Republicans dealt the final blow to the law that could leave over 20 million people who are self-employed or can’t get coverage through their employer without insurance.
While Republicans were voting to defund Obamacare, Democrats introduced several amendments that would require the new health care plan to cover pre-existing conditions, cover children under the age of 26, birth control for women, and prevent insurance companies from charging women more. All but two Republicans voted “No” on the amendments that would protect the health insurance consumer.
Replacing Obamacare will be a bigger challenge legislatively, requiring Republicans get 60 votes on the Senate floor. That would be a nearly herculean task since they would have to convince seven Democrats to vote for a new healthcare law. It is unlikely the GOP could peel off that many votes unless they can manage to craft a better plan that includes the benefits their constituents like.
At this point, it is unclear whether pre-existing conditions or Obamacare’s other popular benefits will be included in the replacement healthcare law. Even though Republicans have been promising the American people a better plan over the past several years but have not come to a consensus on the details, despite having plenty of time to come up with a cohesive plan.
Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan introduced some proposals, floating ideas like high-risk pools, healthcare savings accounts and the ability to cross over state lines to purchase insurance. But in none of the plans floated by Sen. Ryan or Sen. Tom Price is there a guarantee that pre-existing conditions and other popular provisions of Obamacare will be included in the new legislation.
If pre-existing conditions are included in a Republican plan, it will probably be more like pre-ACA policies where those conditions wouldn’t be covered unless an individual maintained continuous coverage. That means if a person lost their job or did not maintain coverage from year to year, they could be denied a new policy, according to Money. That would leave millions of people without access to healthcare.
Even health insurance companies don’t want Obamacare repealed because they lose subsidies and will lose millions of customers. They also don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing what a replacement is going to look and not knowing could cause a great deal of chaos in the healthcare market and a dramatic increase in insurance premiums.