Washington – The US House of Representatives narrowly passed healthcare legislation Thursday to replace the seven-year-old “Obamacare” reform, sending the measure to an uncertain future in the Senate.
“We won,” President Donald Trump said during a gathering of conservative Republican legislators in the White House Rose Garden just after the vote.
The 217-213 tally followed the failure of an earlier version of the measure. The cancellation of a planned vote in March handed a stinging loss to Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
At the White House, Ryan emphasized that House passage was “just one step in this process.”
The current legislation is not expected to clear the 100-member Senate, where parliamentary rules require 60 votes to allow the bill to be considered for passage. With more than 40 seats in the Senate, the left-leaning Democratic minority can therefore block the legislation’s progress.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable victory when we get it through the Senate,” Trump said.
Conservative Republicans long vowed to repeal former president Barack Obama’s signature health insurance reforms, a goal embraced that the right-wing populist Trump embraced throughout his upstart presidential campaign.
Obama’s complex Affordable Care Act made health insurance mandatory, offered subsidies for millions of people to buy coverage, required insurance policies to cover a wide array of services and banned insurers from charging risk premiums based on pre-existing conditions.
Unlike the failed measure in March, the legislation passed Thursday would let states opt out of a requirement that insurers charge healthy people and those with expensive medical issues the same premiums, while offering some financial assistance to people with pre-existing conditions.
Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic minority in the House, ridiculed the subsidy for expensive patients as widely inadequate and calling the legislation a “moral monstrosity.”
Labelling the measure “Trumpcare,” she said the new version “eviscerates essential health benefits” just as the earlier version had.
“It was dead,” Pelosi said. “Now it’s come back to life like a zombie, even more scary.”