Republicans in Congress have wanted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) since it first became law seven years ago, but their attempts continue to fall flat. After the GOP's alternative health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), didn't have enough votes to pass in the House, Republicans had to devise a new plan. I know, I know — it's hard for anyone to keep up with the never-ending health care debate, but there are a few things you need to know about the GOP's latest health care proposal.
Essentially, Republicans are trying to alter the American Health Care Act just enough for it to slide through Congress. Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey proposed an amendment to the bill aimed at appeasing conservatives and moderates who didn't support it the first time around. The Washington Post reports the proposed changes will be discussed among the party this weekend, when Congress begins returning from their two week break.
Ahead, everything you need to know about the proposed health care amendment.
It would (mostly) keep essential health benefits
The previous iteration of the AHCA scrapped Obamacare's federal standard for essential health benefits, which requires insurance plans to cover certain things. Instead, it left it up to individual states to make their own standards. The MacArthur amendment includes the same federal standard found in Obamacare, but would also give limited waivers to states to exclude certain benefits if it would lower premium rates or allow more people to get insurance.
Like the name implies, essential health benefits cover basic health needs such as hospitalization, mental health services, prescription drugs, preventative care, and pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.
It would allow states to charge more for preexisting conditions
Under Obamacare, insurers can't legally charge people higher premiums because they have preexisting conditions. The initial AHCA would have thrown out that protection, which many Republicans opposing the bill had a problem with. The new amendment would allow states to apply for waivers to sidestep the preexisting condition protection, but those states would have to make a high-risk pool available to people who would be affected.
High-risk coverage pools are separate insurance pools that allow people with existing conditions (who would be denied coverage in the normal marketplace) to get health insurance, but it usually costs a lot more.
To break it all the way down: Waivers under the proposed amendment would give permission to certain states to charge people with preexisting conditions more for insurance. (It's worth noting here that one of the GOP's main complaints about Obamacare is that it's too expensive.)
It still might not pass a vote
The Republicans' original health care bill was pulled before the House could even vote because it was clear it didn't have the necessary votes. Although this amendment was written to help the AHCA pass the second time around, there's always a chance it could still fail.
Trump wants it passed quickly
President Trump reportedly wants the bill passed before his first 100 days in office are up next week. He really believes it will happen (then again, he was optimistic AHCA would pass the first time).
"The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” Trump said at a news conference Thursday. “We have a good chance of getting it soon. I’d like to say next week, but we will get it.”
The biggest problem with this short timeline is that Congress is also working to pass a funding bill before the government is shut down April 28. As it tends to happen, it could be difficult for the two parties to agree on a major funding bill while in the throes of yet another divisive health care debate.
Time to prepare for all the political drama next week is sure to bring.
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