Most Shared

Purpose

In context: Why did the Republican Obamacare replacement bill fail?

By Lauren AguirreMarch 28, 2017

Paul Ryan AHCA
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan delivers remarks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol after President Trump's healthcare bill was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives March 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

The American Health Care Act was proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan as the solution to conservatives’ woes about Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. The bill would have ended the heavily criticized individual mandate and cut down federal subsidies for healthcare while also keeping some of the most popular pieces of Obamacare in place.

But it seems it wasn’t the answer Republicans were looking for. The bill was pulled last week just minutes before the House was scheduled to vote on it. Republicans have been talking about repealing Obamacare ever since it was originally passed seven years ago in 2010. Now, they have a majority in both the House and the Senate and Republicans control the presidency. So why did their replacement bill fall apart?

 

Put simply: politics. The bill didn’t only fail to gain traction with Democrats, it also failed to gain support among Republicans.

Put simply: politics. The bill didn’t only fail to gain traction with Democrats, it also failed to gain support among Republicans. None of the Democrats would support any kind of repeal or conservative replacement of Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act was hailed as the crowning achievement of Obama’s presidency. Politically, it is understandable that they wouldn’t support dismantling it.

But Speaker Ryan faced other political tensions from within his own party. Many mainstream and establishment Republicans were okay with the new bill. Federal subsidies for insurance would be lower under the conservative plan. Cutting federal spending is usually good news for fiscal conservatives.

Another plus with the bill is the removal of the federal requirement to buy insurance, called the individual mandate. Many Republicans and American citizens disliked this portion of the Affordable Care Act. The bill would have also kept in place three incredibly popular pieces of Obamacare. No one has to face lifetime limit caps, people with so-called “pre-existing” conditions can still obtain reasonably priced health insurance, and adult children can stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. Keeping these portions would have theoretically made the bill much more popular among the general public.

However, many Republicans who were seeking a complete repeal of Obamacare were disappointed by Ryan’s proposal. Representative Rand Paul called the bill “Obamacare Lite.” He argued that it kept too much of the unneeded regulations on the healthcare industry in place. And even with the cuts to federal subsidies, some Republicans thought it was still too much spending.

 

It authorized insurance companies to charge up to 130 percent of a plan’s premium for a year if a person lapses in coverage for more than two months.

While the individual mandate was removed, the uninsured could still be penalized under the new bill. It authorized insurance companies to charge up to 130 percent of a plan’s premium for a year if a person lapses in coverage for more than two months. For Paul and other Republicans, this just shifted the burden of enforcing an uninsured penalty. Generally, Republicans believe that no one should be punished for not purchasing something they don’t want in the first place.

And so, with criticisms of the bill from both the left and the right, Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to pull the bill from consideration in the House of Representatives. Ryan personally helped draft and promote this bill. He couldn’t have allowed the vote to proceed, knowing that the bill would be voted down. That would have been a devastating political blow.

Even without the vote, Ryan might be facing an uphill battle trying to wrangle votes for any future legislation. However, things could be very different outside of the healthcare debate. Many Republicans have more to agree on regarding the tax code or school vouchers. Maybe they don’t. Only time will tell.