Late night vote begins ACA appeal process

Special to the S-E

Turf war or political altruism? Last week D.C. Republicans approved a plan that would “gut” the Affordable Care Act while also dodging a filibuster by the Democrats. The plan requires repeal of the ACA by Jan. 27, and was approved with a close Senate vote of 51 for and 48 against.

A handful of Republicans have expressed support for waiting until March and going forward carefully to “get it right.” Several Republicans say it could take longer since details of a replacement have not been solidified.

The vote concluded at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 12, and was not without drama. As protest, Democrats, who seemed to not believe Republicans had a better plan, emphasized their “no” vote with a brief sentence outlining their reasoning.

Washington State’s Maria Cantwell stated, “This is not business as usual. You are stealing health care from Americans,” which garnered national headlines.

For the wealthy?

War veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth stated “on behalf of 1.2 million Illinoisans who will lose health insurance with this repeal of the ACA, and for all with pre-existing conditions, I stand on my prosthetic legs and vote no.” And Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden said, “Health care should not just be for the healthy and wealthy.”

The numerous statements were met with the obstructing noise of a pounding gavel, as Sen. Cory Gardner declared each Senator out of order and reminded them that “debate is not allowed during a vote.”

The Wall Street Journal said the vote signified passing of the “first major hurdle” for repeal, which will include ending “large parts” of the ACA. Republicans have said they want to “repeal and replace,” but there are mixed messages on how soon there will be a replacement, and what all will be repealed.

Despite Hillary Clinton’s nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump, Republicans are claiming they have a mandate to uphold their promise to get rid of the ACA and, as voiced by Sen. Roger Wicker, “show to the American people that elections have consequences.”

President-elect Trump has said he has his own plan for simultaneously repealing the ACA and replacing it. That plan will be made known, he’s promised, when his nominee, Rep. Tom Price, is confirmed for leading the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Price is an orthopedic surgeon and has been consistently critical of the ACA.

A terrible price

In the past, Price has voted to cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid, and has opposed birth control, abortion and access to reproductive health.

His own ACA repeal-and-replace proposals have included use of health savings accounts; fixed tax credits starting at $1,200, to go up with age and not adjusted for income, for health insurance purchases; no denial of pre-existing conditions if a person had 18 months prior continuous coverage (and if they did not, they would be denied coverage for 18 months after buying an insurance plan); limits on tax deductions for companies to discourage “overly generous” health insurance benefits for employees; money for states to create high-risk pools for those with existing conditions who cannot find affordable insurance on the private market (which has been tried in 34 states, and typically did not thrive due to inadequate funding).

An amendment from Democrats was also proposed: to allow importation of less expensive prescription drugs from Canada, an amendment that included protection for rural hospitals and continued access for pre-existing conditions. It was defeated, but did get 12 “yes” votes from Republicans. Some Democrats voted against it, with a point of contention being there was no language regarding the imported drugs meeting U.S. safety standards.

Republican Sen. Tim Pawlenty commented by asking, “Where are the dead Canadians?”

Some are wondering if this is all really a turf war. There have been news articles suggesting Obama actually lifted the ACA from the Republicans, and now they want the mostly-popular program back.

“You would find a great deal of similarity to provisions in the ACA,” Sheila Burke, Republican Bob Dole’s Chief of Staff said in 2013 regarding similarities between the ACA and Republican health care proposals in the 1990’s.

Read the full story in the Jan. 18 edition of the Statesman-Examiner. An e-edition will be available Jan. 18 through our website: