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June 13th, 2017

Game on: Key facts about the Republican health care bill

This week might determine the fate of a Republican-backed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care program popularly known as Obamacare. Many Congressional Republicans campaigned extensively against Obamacare, and its removal was a central campaign promise of President Trump.

Here is an overview of current deliberations in Congress to overhaul the American health care system. At the end, play this fun Kahoot game to test your knowledge of the American Health Care Act.

  • The House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act on May 4, 2017 by a margin of one vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate indicated that they would write their own bill and send it back to the House rather than voting on the original version.
  • The bill passed by the House would get rid of the individual mandate and allow states to opt out of the requirement that insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes or cancer. Instead, it would set up “high-risk pools” for those patients.
    • “High-risk pools” mean that people with pre-existing conditions would buy health plans on a separate market with lower premiums. In the past, states and the federal government chipped in to subsidize these pools and it did not work very well. Watch this video from Kaiser Health News for a good explainer of high-risk pools. 
    • About 52 million Americans under the age of 65 suffer from pre-existing conditions.
  • The American Health Care Act would also phase out the expansion of Medicaid, which would provide a cut of about $880 billion over the course of the next 10 years.
    • Medicaid provides health coverage to groups such as pregnant women, children, low-income adults, individuals with disabilities and the elderly.
  • It could also roll back Obamacare’s mandate of ten “essential benefits” that health care plans sold on the individual and small group market were required to include. Instead, states would determine what those plans would cover.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the American Health Care Act would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million by 2026. Most of these would come from the rollback of Medicaid expansion.
  • The new law would reduce the federal deficit by approximately $337 billion, which is expected to fund a significant tax break for the wealthy.
  • According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 21 percent of American voters approved of the House health care plan soon after it passed.
  • In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed the Senate health care bill on the “fast track,” which allows the Republicans to bypass debate and amendments in relevant committees and quickly force the measure to a floor vote.
    • Democrats have called for “regular order,” which involves public hearings and amendments in committee before a vote. There have been no hearings so far on the Senate bill and there are no plans to release a draft for public scrutiny.
  • Republicans invoked a Senate rule known as the “budget reconciliation process” to avoid a filibuster threshold of 60 votes and pass the bill with only 50 votes so that Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. Thus, the bill does not need any Democratic votes to pass.
  • If the Senate passes a version of the bill, the differences between it and the House bill will have to be ironed out and it will have to be voted on by both chambers again before it goes to the president’s desk.
  • Senate Republicans have stated intent to vote on their bill and pass it before the July 4 recess, which leaves them fewer than 15 legislative days to finish. Democrats took 14 months to debate, amend and eventually pass the Obamacare bill, and went through multiple versions of the bill and Congressional Budget Office evaluations.

by Amanda Wilcox, NewsHour Extra intern and sophomore at Wake Forest University.

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