House of Representatives Approves New Health Care Act

On May 4, the Republican-majority House of Representatives approved the American Health Care Act (AHCA) with a 217-213 vote, passing by a margin of one vote over the required 216. Every Democrat in the House voted against the bill, which aims to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The AHCA passed the latest vote after a failed attempt to bring the legislation to a vote in March, when Republicans pulled the bill due to lack of support.

The legislation will now move to the Senate, where Republicans hold 52 of 100 seats.

However, experts doubt that the Senate will pass the bill in its current form. In response to the bill’s passage in the House, American Society of Hematology President Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, released the following statement: “We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. House of Representatives today passed a bill that would price the oldest and sickest Americans out of affordable health insurance coverage by waiving requirements for community rating and age rating, scaling back funding for Medicaid – a vital lifeline for many with blood diseases like sickle cell disease and hemophilia – and permitting states to opt out of requiring coverage for essential health benefits.”

The independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that nearly 24 million people would lose health care coverage if the previous version of the AHCA became law, but the analysis has not yet been performed on the new House-passed AHCA version. Hospitals, physicians, and insurers have criticized the legislation and urged significant changes.

Under the AHCA, states would be permitted to apply for waivers to the current requirements that ban insurers from charging more to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer and hematologic malignancies. The bill would also eliminate the individual mandate and the provision that requires insurers to cover essential health benefits.

The CBO review of the AHCA’s new version is due the week of May 22, 2017.

Source: The New York Times, May 4, 2017; ASH news release, May 4, 2017.