Core of Obamacare Would Be Repealed in Bill Passed by U.S. House

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A U.S. flag flies in front of the dome of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013, on in Washington.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Planned Parenthood would lose funding for a year under measure
  • Obama would veto the legislation if it reached his desk

House Republicans voted Friday to repeal Obamacare’s core provisions and strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood, using an expedited process designed to send those proposals to President Barack Obama’s desk for the first time.

The 240-189 vote forwards the measure to the Senate, where Republicans could bypass Democratic opposition and send the bill to the president. Obama would veto it, though, and Democrats have enough votes to block an override.

The legislation would provide relief from the "harmful effects" of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Budget Committee Chairman and bill sponsor Tom Price of Georgia said during floor debate. "We all want a system that’s affordable for everybody. Does that occur in Obamacare? No."

The measure would end the requirements that individuals acquire health insurance and that large employers provide it to their workers. It also would repeal a medical device tax and a so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans.

The legislation would cut a year of federal funding from Planned Parenthood, which is under fire from Republicans after undercover videos purported to show officials for the reproductive health-care organization discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.

Senate passage isn’t guaranteed, though, because three of the 54 Republicans already have announced their opposition because they want the bill to fully repeal Obamacare. One more opponent would mean Republicans lack a 51-vote simple majority to pass the measure.

Pre-Existing Conditions

The health-care law, Obama’s signature domestic achievement, requires insurers to issue policies and set rates without regard to pre-existing health problems. Without the coverage mandate, the government has said those rules would create an industry “death spiral,” in which only patients with costly health conditions would buy insurance. That would drive up premiums, prompting healthy policyholders to drop coverage, causing still more rate increases, the government contends.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld tax credits provided by Obamacare to help millions of Americans buy insurance. In 2012, the court upheld the requirement that people acquire insurance or pay a penalty. Congressional Republicans have acknowledged their options are limited in replacing the health-care law as long as Obama remains president.

House Republicans have tried unsuccessfully more than 50 times to repeal or delay the health-care law, though this is the first time they’ve used a procedure aimed at bypassing Senate Democrats’ opposition.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said on the House floor, "We understand that the Affordable Care Act’s not perfect. But a piece of legislation that takes away affordable health care to 15 million Americans, that is nothing to celebrate."

The measure, H.R. 3762, uses the expedited process that was used to enact Obamacare and the George W. Bush-era tax cuts into law. That seldom-invoked process, called reconciliation, lets the Senate pass a measure that would reduce the federal deficit and send it to Obama. Minority Democrats couldn’t demand a 60-vote threshold.

Lawmakers can object to a provision in the bill if they believe it doesn’t have a budget impact. Because of that, many Republican lawmakers say they can’t use the reconciliation procedure to try to kill Obamacare in its entirety.

‘Respect Those Limitations’

To ensure the bill’s passage, Price said during a Wednesday night Rules Committee meeting, lawmakers must "respect those limitations."

Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, said in an e-mail that in a reconciliation bill, "you cannot add to the deficit. If you repeal the entire law, you cannot use reconciliation because that would add to the deficit."

Earlier this week, the conservative group Heritage Action for America urged lawmakers to vote against the bill because it doesn’t do enough to end Obamacare. The measure leaves intact parts of the law including an expansion of the federal-state Medicaid health program for the poor.

Three Senate Republicans -- Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida -- said in a joint statement that the House bill "simply isn’t good enough" because it doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare. Cruz and Rubio are running for the Republican presidential nomination.

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