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GOP HealthCare Plan Passes House, Moves to Senate

ABC 7 Chicago

Delivering at last, triumphant House Republicans voted Thursday to repeal and replace the "Obamacare" health plan they have reviled for so long, overcoming united Democratic opposition and their own deep divisions to hand a major win to President Donald Trump.

The 217-213 vote was a narrow victory, and ultimate success is far from assured since the measure must still make its way through a highly skeptical Senate. But after seven years of campaign promises and dozens of show votes, Republicans finally succeeded in passing a health care bill that has a chance of becoming law.

They weren't waiting for final passage to celebrate.

"What a great group of people!" Trump exclaimed at the White House, arms raised to salute the dozens of lawmakers who hurried to join him in the Rose Garden immediately after the vote. Set aside for the moment were the feuds and philosophical divides that nearly sank the bill time and again.

And at the same time, the Republicans had begun to show that perhaps they can come together and govern the country now that they control Washington in full.

"Make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it," Trump declared. "Premiums will be coming down, deductibles will be coming down, but very importantly it's a great plan."

Democrats countered that the GOP bill would have the opposite effect from what Trump predicted, pointing to estimates it will kick millions off the insurance roles while imperiling coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who had gained protections under Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

They also forecast that Republicans will pay a steep political price for passing legislation that's polled poorly and takes concrete benefits away while offering only promises of more choices and lower costs.

"You will glow in the dark on this one," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dramatically warned, predicting Republicans will be radioactive with voters in the 2018 midterm elections.

Indeed Democrats seemed practically giddy as the vote closed on the House floor, jeering at Republicans with chants of "nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, goodbye" - an echo of how protesters serenaded Democrats seven years ago when they passed Obama's bill.

ILLINOIS LAWMAKERS, HEALTH INDUSTRY GROUPS REACT TO AHCA PASSAGE

In Wheaton, protesters attended an event featuring U.S. Rep Peter Roskam (R-6), who voted for the bill.

"Most of us have preexisting conditions. Anybody that's taken an antidepressant. Anybody that's had a C-section. These are all preexisting conditions under this bill," said Han Lather, Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th.

He did not release a statement other than to say he voted for the bill "which responsibly repeals and replaces Obamacare."

The biggest criticism of the proposed law appears to be its repeal of Obamacare standards of care. Many health policy groups agree with Northwestern University's Center for Healthcare Studies that those with pre-existing conditions may well be left out.

"This now allows insurers to charge higher rates to people who may be sicker, and typically people who are sicker, they can't work as much so paying higher rates can be quite a problem and results in not allowing them to get the care they need," said Dr. Jane Holl.

Medical leaders in Chicago blasted the bill.

"All the medical community wants to ensure is that all the individuals that were covered do not become uninsured," said Tariq Bhat, Chicago Medical Society.

Others blasted Republicans for the affect the bill has on Obamacare taxes.

"This is a great transfer of wealth to folks who are pretty wealthy," said Richard Boykin, Cook County Commissioner.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3) voted against the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "This version of the bill is even worse than the original version released last month. As I said at that time, the AHCA will make healthcare les affordable and accessible for millions of Americans, including thousands of residents in my district. We need to make the Affordable Care Act work better, not replace it with a bill that makes Americans worse off."

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-11) voted against the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "I was proud to cast my vote against the American Health Care Act... For seven years, Republicans promised us something better than the Affordable Care Act. IN the end, this plan revealed these promises were simply not true. I urge people that are going to be hurt by this bill to make their voices known as it makes its way through the Senate."

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14) voted for the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "Maintaining the status quo under a failing law is simply unacceptable. I have had great concerns about this bill, and expressed those to Speaker Ryan and House leadership. But doing nothing isn't an option, which is why I supported this amended bill as an important next step in the longer process of broader health reform that will benefit Illinois."

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigly (D-5) voted against the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "This afternoon's vote on the House Floor can best be described in one word: shameful. Today, Republicans put politics over people by moving forward on a bill with only hours' notice and without an updated cost estimate. Unfortunately, we know the cost it will have on tens of millions of Americans who will lose health care coverage as a result."

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16) voted for the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "We cannot wait any longer to bring relief to the American people suffering under Obamacare... Today, I voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, just as the American people asked for on Election Day. The AHCA puts patients back in charge of their own healthcare, and includes several layers of protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions."

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) voted against the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "House Republicans have done it. They have voted in favor of a horrible bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have opposed the will of the American people, they have ignored the warnings of doctors, nurses, and patient groups, and they have told their constituents that they care more about toeing the party line than protecting the health care of millions of Americas."

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4) voted against the bill and released a statement saying, in part, "Watching Republicans celebrate as they stripped health care coverage from millions of Americans was angering. Taking political retribution against Obama is one thing, but what Republicans are doing is snatching health care coverage from sick people, families and the elderly to make a political point."

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released a statement saying, in part, "The Illinois congressmen who voted to repeal health care today ignored clear warnings from every Illinois medical organization that this will be a disaster for our state. They were driven by political arrogance instead of common sense. My recent medical experience reminded me how vulnerable we all are. I will fight this Republican health care repeal in the Senate until Hell freezes over."

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) released a statement saying, "It's disgraceful that Republicans in Congress just passed a bill that would kick tens of millions of Americans off of their health insurance and force many more to pay higher out-of-pocket costs. What's stunning is that Republicans also included a provision that would raise taxes on as many as 8 million Veterans and make it harder for them to afford their healthcare. I will fight this proposal in the Senate tooth and nail to make sure that every one of my brothers and sisters who wore the uniform of this great nation - and every American - is able to receive the care they deserve."

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who is a Republican, released a statement saying, in part, "The bill that passed in the U.S. House today continues to be of deep concern to our administration. Recent changes did not address fundamental concerns about the bill's impact on the 650,000 individuals that are part of our Medicaid expansion population, nor have those changes eased the concerns of the 350,000 people in the individual market who are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices. We will continue to voice our concerns as the law moves to the Senate."


The American Medical Association released a statement saying, "The bill passed by the House today will result in millions of Americans losing access to quality, affordable health insurance and those with pre-existing health conditions face the possibility of going back to the time when insurers could charge them premiums that made access to coverage out of the question. Action is needed, however, to improve the current health care insurance system. The AMA urges the Senate and the Administration to work with physician, patient, hospital and other provider groups to craft bipartisan solutions so all American families can access affordable and meaningful coverage, while preserving the safety net for vulnerable populations."

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association released a statement saying, in part, "The Illinois Health and Hospital Association and Illinois hospital community are disappointed with the results of today's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the American Health Care Act. We have serious concerns that the proposed legislation would cause harm to patients, the healthcare delivery system, the state budget and the state economy."

Chicago Health Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D., released a statement saying in part, "More than 300,000 Chicago residents have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act and our city is undeniably healthier for it. Unfortunately Republicans in Congress don't care about improving health. Today, they chose politics over people... We urge every member of the United States Senate to vote against this dangerous proposal and keep it from ever becoming law."

Access Living Health Care released a statement saying, in part, "The American Health Care Act...is a devastating blow to millions of disabled and non-disabled people in the United States. This bill threatens healthcare coverage and independence for people with pre-existing conditions and people who receive community-based support through Medicaid."

WHAT THE AHCA ACTUALLY DOES

The GOP health bill would eliminate the fines Obama's law imposed on people who don't buy coverage, and erase tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It would cut the Medicaid program for low-income people and let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It would transform Obama's subsidies for millions buying insurance, now based largely on their incomes, making the funding skimpier and tying it to consumers' ages.

And states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older people to whatever they wish, and ignore a mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that the GOP bill would end coverage for 24 million people over a decade. The House voted without a CBO estimate for the latest version of their bill.

Although it's focused mostly on the minority of Americans who buy health coverage in the individual market, the GOP bill could also significantly impact the many who are covered by large employer plans. In one little-noted provision, employer plans could take advantage of state flexibility under the legislation to pick and choose which states' rules to live by. That could allow them to impose annual and lifetime coverage limits, which are prohibited under Obamacare, and get rid of certain annual out-of-pocket spending caps.

Protesters were on hand again for Thursday's vote, shouting "Shame on you! Shame on you!" and "2018! 2018!" as Republicans boarded buses outside the Capitol to head to the White House.

Yet as the 2016 election amply demonstrated, political outcomes can be difficult to predict. Republicans argued they would have had a still heavier price to pay if they failed to make good on an endlessly repeated pledge that helped them seize control of the House, the Senate and the White House in the years since the law passed.

Back in 2010, the Democrats held Congress and the White House and used their majorities to jam through an unpopular health care law on a partisan basis, just as Republicans have done now.

As lawmakers prepared to vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan told them: "Many of you have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of you are here because you pledged to cast this vote."

"They expect us to govern - if we're going to be around," Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida said of voters.

The White House had pushed hard for a vote, and Trump got personally involved in last-minute maneuvering. He helped bring wavering moderates on board after a deal secured by conservatives last week scared them off by limiting protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The final change, agreed to just Wednesday at the White House, was to add $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions, a sum critics called a relative pittance.

Indeed, despite assurances by GOP leaders that their legislation would rescue a failing health care system, it was opposed by nearly all medical and consumer groups, from the American Medical Association to AARP. The Chamber of Commerce supported the bill.

The health legislation passed the House on a banner day for Republicans on Capitol Hill, as the Senate gave final congressional approval to a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government running through September, and a House committee approved legislation that would gut the Democratic-authored Dodd-Frank law that regulated Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis.