by Umar Farooq
The Republican controlled U.S senate has taken the first step toward repealing the Obamacare Act by passing a budget resolution with a narrow 51 – 48 vote. The budget for fiscal year 2017 has set up the next step by instructing two House and two Senate committees to come up with plans for wiping out much of the health law. The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it this week. Scrapping Obamacare is a top priority for the Republican majorities in both chambers and Republican President-elect Donald Trump.
The resolution approved Thursday instructs committees of the House and the Senate to draft repeal legislation by a target date of January 27. Both chambers will then need to approve the resulting legislation before any repeal goes into effect. Republicans are using special budget procedures in the Senate that allow them to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority; this way they don’t need Democratic votes. Republicans have a majority of 52 votes in the 100-seat Senate; one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, voted no on Thursday.
The Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as “Obamacare,” was signed March 23, 2010. The law has 2 parts: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.
Republicans, including both moderate and conservative were wary about the wisdom of voting for repeal without laying out more details about the eventual replacement. Republicans were of the view that the 2010 health care law is broken and must be repealed and replaced with something better — although just what that replacement plan will look like has not yet been revealed by congressional leaders. The high premiums, increasing deductibles and fewer health care choices for patients as insurers pull out of the program are some of the issues that made republicans critical of the Obamacare act. Republicans have launched repeated legal and legislative efforts to unravel the law in the past, citing the reason that they want to replace it by giving states, not the federal government, more control.
“The Senate just took an important step toward repealing and replacing Obamacare by passing the resolution that provides the legislative tools necessary to actually repeal this failed law while we move ahead with smarter health-care policies,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) said in a statement after the resolution passed.
Democrats ridiculed the Republican effort, saying Republicans have never united around an alternative to Obamacare. “They want to kill ACA but they have no idea how they are going to bring forth a substitute proposal,” declared Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The effects of repealing the Obamacare have already started to emerge. Growing numbers of U.S. states are seeking to ensure that women have continued access to free birth control in case the insurance benefit is dropped as part of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The 2010 Obamacare law requires most health insurance plans to provide coverage for birth control without a patient co-payment. “Women across New York are very concerned that Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will mean the loss of the contraception on which they rely,” New York’s Democratic attorney general, Eric Schneiderman said.
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