Healthcare

House fires back at Trump by passing ObamaCare expansion

The House on Monday passed a bill to expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as Democrats seek to hammer President Trump and Republicans on health care heading into the November elections.

The legislation, which passed in a largely party-line vote of 234 to 179, would increase the 2010 health law’s subsidies that help people afford their premiums and add more federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

Democrats timed the vote to contrast with the Trump administration’s legal brief filed with the Supreme Court last week calling for the ACA to be struck down, a move Democrats said would be even more harmful during the coronavirus pandemic.

“How can it be that at this very moment, when the value of the ACA is so plainly obvious to tens of millions of Americans, the administration is in court trying to strike it down?” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), one of several first-term lawmakers in the House facing competitive reelection races who spoke in favor of the bill.

“Unlike the president, we are willing to tell the American people now exactly how we plan to improve health care in America,” he added. “We believe that the ACA should be improved, not taken away.”

The measure steers clear of the internal Democratic debate over “Medicare for All” and does not include any kind of government-run health insurance program, often called a “public option.”

The bill is not expected to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled Senate given Republican opposition to the ACA, also known as ObamaCare.

Republicans countered that they were not consulted on the “partisan” bill. 

“Today’s vote is a messaging vote,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “It’s political. Politics should not control how we write health care policy. Instead we should be working on bipartisan provisions that can be signed into law.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) argued that Republicans did not try for bipartisan health care solutions when they were in control of the House.

“I’ve been here for a long time. Where was this bipartisanship?” he said. “They have not agreed amongst themselves on health care, never mind agreeing with Democrats on health care.”

Defending the ACA was a key strategy used by Democrats in 2018, when they won back the House. The party is returning to the same playbook for the 2020 elections as it attempts to win back the White House and Senate as well.

The legislation passed by the House on Monday is paid for with a measure that would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices, which Republicans said would hinder pharmaceutical innovation that’s especially needed in the middle of a pandemic.

“Fewer cures during a pandemic. Are you kidding me?” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.). “That’s the last thing America needs right now.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Washington Post last week that “health care for all Americans” would be the top policy priority in 2021 if Democrats win the House, Senate and White House.

This bill could provide the foundation of that effort, but the battle over Medicare for All is sure to complicate the Democratic health care push next year, though Democrats are currently side-stepping it in their current measure. 

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a speech last week, “We need a public option now more than ever.”

Tags Affordable Care Act Buddy Carter Donald Trump Joe Biden Kevin Brady Medicaid expansion Nancy Pelosi ObamaCare Richard Neal Tom Malinowski

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