House to vote Thursday on bill to replace Affordable Care Act

"We're gonna pass it. Let's be optimistic about life," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday.
By Mike Bambach and Andrew V. Pestano   |   May 3, 2017 at 8:43 PM
| License Photo

May 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Thursday on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act -- an effort Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said will finally pass.

"We will be voting on the health care votes tomorrow. Because we have enough votes. It'll pass. It's a good bill," McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. "We're gonna pass it. We're gonna pass it. Let's be optimistic about life."

Republicans struggled to reach a final agreement on a health care bill to replace the ACA because some do not want to allow insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for coverage.

The bill gained new momentum on Wednesday after an amendment from Fred Upton, R-Mich, which provides $8 billion over five years to help cover high-risk populations -- helping people with pre-existing conditions in states granted a waiver from ACA's protections.

Republicans last week finished amending the American Health Care Act -- the GOP effort to replace the ACA -- with more support of Freedom Caucus members. The staunchly conservative group was a holdout in March the first time the House attempted to pass the AHCA.

The waivers allow states to opt out of ACA standards setting minimum benefits that health plans must offer. They also allow states to opt out of the community rating requirement that prevents insurers from charging different prices based on a client's health status or age.

"From Day 1, I've supported the rights of those with pre-existing illnesses to be covered, and in my view this undermines that effort, and I can't be a part of it," Upton told reporters Tuesday. "Yes, there are ways to fix it. But the proposal that's on the table now doesn't work."

CNN reported that Upton and Long changed their votes to "yes" after meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump, who committed to backing Upton's amendment.

Under the AHCA's amendments, insurance companies would still be required to cover older people and those with pre-existing conditions, but they will have the ability to charge them more through waivers -- particularly if those who are insured have a lapse in coverage.

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., on Tuesday said he has confronted by "extremely angry" and "sincerely scared" constituents.

"You know, the most sincere anger I've noticed comes from people that are sincerely scared, people that may have a pre-existing condition that feel like they're about to lose it and they're going to die, and they're going to die because of a vote that we might be taking," Rooney said Tuesday. "And if we cannot explain to people that that is not going to happen, then it is going to be very difficult to ever bring a bill to the floor."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., canceled the original House vote in March for the GOP's first effort to repeal and replace the ACA after it became clear the effort didn't have enough Republican or Democratic support to pass.

Many Freedom Caucus members said they did not support that version of the bill because it didn't do enough to dismantle the ACA -- and described it as "Obamacare lite." Some moderate Republican lawmakers said the bill goes too far by allowing insurers to charge more depending on pre-existing conditions and age.

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