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House passes AHCA bill by 4 votes

May 4, 2017
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 217-213 this afternoon to pass the amended version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), whose final revisions were circulated to representatives last night.

The vote, on the last day before a week-long recess, came after the GOP succeeded in winning over members of the Freedom Caucus and some undecideds. The tides began to turn in the GOP's favor Wednesday, as President Donald Trump met with several House representatives on Capitol Hill and legislators added $8 billion in funding for a proposed “high-risk pool” to soothe concerns about pre-existing conditions.

While the vote fell primarily along party lines, 20 Republicans voted against the bill, mainly out of concern for the cutbacks and that the money allotted for pre-existing conditions wouldn’t be nearly enough to make a difference. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, said his state’s insurance commissioner estimated up to 100,000 North Carolinians could end up in the high-risk pool, costing up to $1.5 billion. "Just in North Carolina," Jones said in a Bloomberg article. "So, all the money they’re talking about, I’m just talking about one state."

In a speech from the House floor prior to today's vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) called the measure a “very sad, deadly joke” and labeled its billions in tax cuts is “Robin Hood in reverse.”

Much of the “repeal and replace” bill actually focuses on Medicaid cuts, including getting rid of the state Medicaid expansions by 2020. While proponents appalud the bill for reducing the healthcare entitlements that make up the Medicaid program, the Congressional Budget Office has said 24 million more people could become uninsured over the next 10 years because of the bill.

Newly appointed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma applauded the bill's passage. “Today is the first of what I am confident will be many historic days ahead as we move toward patient-centered healthcare instead of government-centered healthcare,” she said in a statement released to the media. “It is important that our most vulnerable citizens, the aged, the infirm, the blind and the disabled have more choices, greater access and peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare. The bill that was passed today is a great first step achieving this goal.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where the battle for the votes to pass is expected to be more challenging.

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