... and how they were covered
Health-care reform heads to the Senate
Senate Republicans set to work on healthcare reform this week, after their colleagues in the House narrowly approved landmark legislation to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act. Six weeks after conservative opposition derailed the original bill, a new version of the American Health Care Act passed the House 217-213, with 20 Republicans defecting. As before, the bill would scrap tax penalties for people who go without health insurance, roll back the state-by-state expansion of Medicaid, defund Planned Parenthood, and replace means-tested insurance subsidies with tax credits based mainly on a person’s age, ranging from $2,000 for 20-somethings to $4,000 for those in their 60s. New amendments would let states seek waivers so insurers could cover fewer “essential services” and charge higher premiums to customers who have pre-existing conditions or fail to maintain coverage. States that make these changes would be encouraged to set up high-risk pools for uninsurable Americans, backed by federal funds. (See Controversy.) “This is a repeal and replace of Obamacare,” President Trump said. “Make no mistake about it.”
With several Republican senators declaring that they wouldn’t pass the bill in its current form, Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc- Connell set up a 13-man working group to craft its own version. Expected changes include reducing the proposed $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next decade and introducing stronger protections for the old, the poor, and those with pre-existing conditions. Democrats warned House Republicans that voters would punish them for the legislation. “You will glow in the dark on this one,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
What the editorials said
It’s hard to overstate just how terrible this legislation is, said The Washington Post. It would leave millions of Americans with unaffordable premiums, and dump 14 million from Medicaid—all to provide a $1 trillion tax cut for wealthy Americans. That this passes as a “win” for Republicans is “beyond sad.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has done exactly what Republicans accused Democrats of doing with Obamacare, said The San Diego Union-Tribune. He pushed through a “complex bill” along partisan lines, after almost no debate. He didn’t even wait for an assessment by the Congressional Budget Office—perhaps because the nonpartisan body predicted the original bill would strip 24 million people of their coverage.
Republicans should celebrate, said The Wall Street Journal. This was the first stage in fulfilling their main campaign promise, and welcome proof that they can govern. The AHCA doesn’t repeal Obamacare entirely—that would require Democratic votes. But it “marks a giant step away from the Democratic march to government-run health care.”
What the columnists said
After the humiliation of their first run at health-care reform, Ryan and Trump badly needed a win, said Alex Shephard in New Republic .com. This wasn’t one. If the AHCA passes into law, the millions of newly uninsured voters will know exactly whom to blame. If it doesn’t, Democrats will still slam the Republicans who voted for it. With health care set to be the “defining issue” of the 2018 midterms, this was a “remarkably short-sighted” move.
The Senate can, and must, improve this bill, said Kimberley Strassel in The Wall Street Journal. Ryan identified that the way to balance the concerns of moderates and hard-liners was to focus on states’ rights. If McConnell builds on that concept—offering states “vast flexibility to craft fixes to their own unique problems”—it will lead to “true health-care innovation,” while also keeping “the sprawling conservative universe united.”
It’s not that simple, said Russell Berman in The Atlantic.com. Republican senators from states like Louisiana and New Hampshire that benefited from Medicaid expansion won’t accept “deep cuts” to the program, and hard-line conservatives like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are denouncing the bill as “Obamacare-lite.” How will they ever agree? Who knows, said Jim Newell in Slate.com. But everyone was also convinced House Republicans couldn’t pass the AHCA. Yet their caucus reluctantly embraced a terrible bill after concluding that failing to do so would be even worse. “No one should assume that the Senate won’t do the same, for the same reason.” ■