Monday evening, House Republicans released their long-awaited “American Health Care Act,” the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While the bill strips away much of the ACA, it also retains some of its more well-liked provisions. For example, the bill would eliminate the individual mandate that requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty and the employer mandate requirement that large employers offer coverage to their employees, but it would allow children to continue to remain on their parent’s plan through age of 26, keep the prohibition on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition, and would still require a simplified version of employer reporting for offers of coverage made via the employee’s W-2.
Logistically, the bill would achieve most of its ACA repeal by removal of penalties, which would be effective retroactively back to the beginning of 2016, and although there would be no penalty for failure to carry insurance the bill would allow insurers to impose a surcharge on anyone with a gap in coverage.
Of course, Democratic critique of the bill was swift, and it focused on the bills impact on the millions of Americans who have obtained coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. Nancy Pelosi rebuked the plan as a way for Republicans to “force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage and push millions of Americans off of health coverage entirely.” There is also concern that the retroactive effective date of the bill would push people to drop their current coverage, which would cause immediate and irreparable turmoil in insurance markets.
While Democratic criticism is unsurprising, the bill is also causing much inter-party divide with many Republicans expressing serious concerns about the bill and even urging for a rejection of it. For example, a Republican letter signed on Monday by Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska stated that plan did not adequately protect people in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Additionally, three other big name GOP Senators, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, have also already expressed serious concern about the bill, which has been referred to by Republican leaders as “Obamacare 2.0” and “Obamacare Lite.” Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio went as far as to call the bill “not even close to what we told the voters we’re going to do.”
The cost of the proposed replacement plan put forth in the American Health Care Act bill remains unclear as Republicans did not offer any estimate of how much the plan would cost, however the House’s Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees plan to vote on the legislation this Wednesday.