House Republicans vote to repeal ‘Obamacare’

AP PHOTO
President Donald Trump, accompanied by GOP House members, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, after the House pushed through a health care bill.

AP PHOTO President Donald Trump, accompanied by GOP House members, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, after the House pushed through a health care bill.

WASHINGTON — Delivering at last, triumphant House Republicans voted Thursday to repeal and replace the “Obamacare” health plan they have reviled for so long, overcoming united Democratic opposition and their own deep divisions to hand a major win to President Donald Trump.

The 217-213 vote was a narrow victory, and ultimate success is far from assured since the measure must still make its way through a highly skeptical Senate. But after seven years of campaign promises and dozens of show votes, Republicans finally succeeded in passing a health care bill that has a chance of becoming law.

They weren’t waiting for final passage to celebrate.

“What a great group of people!” Trump exclaimed at the White House, arms raised to salute the dozens of lawmakers who hurried to join him in the Rose Garden immediately after the vote. Set aside for the moment were the feuds and philosophical divides that nearly sank the bill time and again.

“Make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it,” Trump declared. “Premiums will be coming down, deductibles will be coming down, but very importantly it’s a great plan.”

Democrats countered that the GOP bill would have the opposite effect from what Trump predicted, pointing to estimates it will kick millions off the insurance roles while imperiling coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who had gained protections under Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

They also forecast that Republicans will pay a steep political price for passing legislation that’s polled poorly and takes concrete benefits away while offering only promises of more choices and lower costs.

“You will glow in the dark on this one,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dramatically warned, predicting Republicans will be radioactive with voters in the 2018 midterm elections.

Indeed Democrats seemed practically giddy as the vote closed on the House floor, jeering at Republicans with chants of “nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, goodbye” — an echo of how protesters serenaded Democrats seven years ago when they passed Obama’s bill.

The GOP health bill would eliminate the fines Obama’s law imposed on people who don’t buy coverage, and erase tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It would cut the Medicaid program for low-income people and let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It would transform Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance, now based largely on their incomes, making the funding skimpier and tying it to consumers’ ages.

And states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements. With waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older people to whatever they wish, and ignore a mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.