Obamacare is one-third replaced

Bill squeezed through chamber with a 217-213 vote

WASHINGTON — More than 50 years after Canada moved toward universal health coverage, and 70 years after it happened in England and France, the U.S. Congress took a baby step in the other direction Thursday, advancing a bill that would eliminate health care for millions.

It won’t likely make it through the Senate in its current form.

But the passage of that bill through the House of Representatives was greeted as a momentous event by both parties: By Republicans as proof their majority could get something done, by President Donald Trump as a legislative win, and by Democrats as an electoral gift.

Democrats in fact erupted in mock celebration the instant the bill squeezed through the chamber with a 217-213 vote — teasing their Republican rivals, waving, singing, ”Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.”

That’s because they’re counting on Republicans being turfed in next year’s midterm elections over what they say the bill does: help the wealthy, the biggest winners in hundreds of billions in tax cuts; hurt the poor, millions of whom would lose coverage; increase premiums for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer; and anger the nation’s main seniors’ lobby group.

“You have walked the plank,” predicted Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the chamber.

“You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one.”

The bill’s effects are hard to gauge.

It was rushed to a vote before the congressional budget watchdog had a chance to assess it. An earlier evaluation of the bill in a previous form concluded it would have removed insurance from 24 million people.

Another reason it’s hard to predict the impact is because key coverage decisions would belong to the states. One such decision involves whether to restrict access to the U.S. Medicaid program, which provides coverage for the very poorest Americans.

Republicans savoured the moment.

Trump invited the victorious party over to the White House for a celebratory press conference. Desperate for a legislative win, he wanted something passed by the chamber, so he could move onto more politically popular issues — like tax cuts and infrastructure.

Earlier efforts crashed.

Previous versions of the bill kept stumbling into opposition from the party’s right wing, or its left wing — ultimately satisfying neither, clogging up valuable congressional time, and undermining Trump’s personal brand as a deal-maker.

The Republican House leader cast it as a simple matter: keeping promises. Republicans pledged repeatedly to undo Barack Obama’s unpopular bill. In fact, they rode the tsunami of popular anger to congressional gains in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

“A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote,” said Paul Ryan, the House Speaker.

“Are we going to be men and women of our word? Are we going to keep the promises we made?”

The other Republican rationale for this bill was that the current Obamacare system is falling apart and unsustainable. Republicans pointed to the skyrocketing number of counties without insurance competition, with just one provider or none.

Trump referred to those problems in a ceremonious get-together in the White House Rose Garden: ”Wherever I went (in the campaign), people were suffering so badly, because of the ravages of Obamacare… It’s dead.”

That only tells part of the Obamacare story.

The rate of Americans without health insurance has declined, from 18 per cent to 10 per cent, under Obama’s 2010 health reform. Democrats say it would be even better, had the project not been sabotaged by Republicans — who, for instance, removed federal protection for struggling insurance plans.

The bill has now completed one-third of its journey with Thursday’s vote.

It still must pass the Senate, and can do so with a simple majority vote under the rules for financial measures. But it’s expected several Republicans will demand changes. Then the bill would go to a reconciliation conference, where both chambers negotiate a final version.

Senate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the current bill.

Ohio’s Rob Portman said he agrees with the general objective of replacing Obamacare with a more sustainable alternative. But he said he doesn’t support the current version, as he fears the watering-down of Medicare will worsen the opioid crisis.

”These changes must be made in a way that does not leave people behind,” he said in a statement.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Red Deer College waiting for feds to finalize marijuana legalization

Like businesses, Alberta and municipal governments, Red Deer College is waiting for… Continue reading

Class size only part of the problem say Central Alberta teachers

Though the Alberta auditor general’s report points out that classroom sizes continue… Continue reading

Lacombe County promoting crime prevention measures

County pushing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles

Red Deer doctor concerned about patient transfers to rural hospitals

Family physician says the move creates less incentive for expansion at Red Deer hospital

Fire permit season begins in March

Earlier springs in last few years prompted Alberta government to move up fire permit season

WATCH: Red Deer’s River Bend upgrades officially open

River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is the latest venue to be… Continue reading

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Stores make push in scan and go tech, hope shoppers adopt it

NEW YORK — Shoppers at self-checkout lanes scanning all their groceries after… Continue reading

‘Stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid, commissioner says

HALIFAX — CFL fans in Halifax have been told the league is… Continue reading

The language of ‘Black Panther’? It’s real. Give it a try.

OTTAWA — The military’s top general has promised to get to the… Continue reading

New execution date set for Georgia’s ‘stocking strangler’

ATLANTA — A man known as the “stocking strangler,” who was convicted… Continue reading

Man says he kicked Chevy Chase in self-defence in dispute

SOUTH NYACK, N.Y. — A New York man says he kicked Chevy… Continue reading

Supporters of Tina Fontaine’s family march in Winnipeg to support her family

WINNIPEG — Hundreds marched through the streets of Winnipeg on Friday in… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month