The U.S. House of Representatives has taken the first big step toward demolishing President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law by approving a budget plan already passed by the Senate.
The Republicans passed a new budget measure which would make the passage of the new law clear and would restrict the Democrats from blocking the move, but lawmakers in both the parties remain concerned as there is no clear replacement for the law, known as Obamacare.
The move raises a big question mark over the medical coverage for more than 20 million Americans.
The budget measure passed in the House on a nearly party-vote basis, 277-198. Only nine Republicans sided with Democrats against the measure. The move is a significant blow to President Obama’s legacy just a week before he leaves office.
The measure directs four committees on Capitol Hill to draft legislation for the repeal by January 27.
The Senate passed the resolution earlier by 51 votes to 48.
The House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement after the vote:
“By taking the first step toward repealing Obamacare, we are closer to giving Americans relief from the problems this law has caused. This resolution gives us the tools we need for a step-by-step approach to fixing these problems and put Americans back in control of their health care.”
The Affordable Care Act has extended medical coverage and health subsidies to millions who are not otherwise covered through work. It has halted insurers from refusing coverage to people who are already sick, and limited medical charges to people who are ill and elderly. But the law has come under attack due to rising premiums, large fees, and many national insurers leaving the marketplaces.
The Republicans have pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act after being egged on by Donald Trump who derides the law as “Unaffordable Care Act,” but conservatives have not yet agreed on a new replacement plan.
Few details have been provided by Republicans on their plans to replace Obamacare. It is expected that the replacement would seek to end unpopular requirements like the need to buy coverage for many individuals and larger companies providing coverage to their workers. Experts, however, object that these qualifications are necessary to keep the insurance marketplace solvent.
Tom Price, President-elect Trump’s choice for health and human services sectary, will play a vital role in shaping the planned overhaul.
The Georgia Congressman has touted his own Obamacare replacement plan previously.
According to the figure given by nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget this month, repealing Obamacare would cost about $350bn over the next decade.
Republicans hope that a budget reconciliation bill will now be drafted in the committee – which would strip Obamacare of funding – and could pass a month after that. The bill would be able to pass smoothly with a simple majority in the Republican-controlled Congress, without any filibuster.
By taking advantage of the budget process, the Republicans are making use of the same formula Democrats did seven years ago to pass the law.