House Passes Obamacare Expansion as Election Season Heats Up

WASHINGTON (CN) — Contrasting the effort with the Trump administration’s push to have the Supreme Court invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the House of Representatives on Monday approved an expansion of the law better known as Obamacare.

Democrats announced a vote on the health care bill last week, just before the Trump administration filed its opening brief asking the Supreme Court to find Obamacare unconstitutional in light of changes that zeroed out the financial penalty for people who do not purchase health insurance.

The HealthCare.gov website is seen in October 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The House legislation, which passed 234-179 Monday afternoon, makes tax credits for health insurance premiums more generous, opening them up to people making 400% of the federal poverty line. It also encourages states to expand Medicaid and pumps $10 billion per year for states to support reinsurance markets.

Incorporating provisions in a previous piece of legislation that passed the House in December, the bill also requires the federal government to negotiate the prices of at least 25 drugs each year.

Democrats hailed the legislation as an important step forward on health care and with a presidential election a little more than four months away, cast the bill as a stark contrast to the effort from the Trump administration and red states to strike down Obamacare in court.

“There is no Republican bill to make sure that Americans have affordable, quality health care and have them able to get insurance irrespective of preexisting conditions,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor Monday. “There is no such legislation.”  

Republicans criticized the bill as an expensive and ineffective double down on Obamacare. Opponents of the plan pointed specifically to a Congressional Budget Office report on the drug pricing provisions that found they could prevent as many as 15 drugs from coming to market over the next 10 years.

“It’s partisan business as usual during a time when our nation calls out for so much more,” Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Monday.

Monday’s vote is almost certainly the high point for the bill, as the Republican Senate is unlikely to pass it and the White House has promised a veto.

In its veto threat, the White House said the drug pricing provisions would do particular damage by preventing critical drugs from coming to market amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“To take such an action simply to double down on the same expansive, inefficient and bureaucratic approach to health coverage that the American people endured for the past decade makes it even more misguided and counter to the most urgent needs of the country,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy.

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