Just When You Thought It Was Dead, ACA Repeal Talks Are Back

Image courtesy of Michael Kappel

After the Republican effort to repeal core elements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) was pulled minutes before it was to be considered for a vote by the House of Representatives, both President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated that the ACA was the “law of the land” for the time-being, and that there likely wouldn’t be another repeal attempt this year. But now, Ryan and other lawmakers are already indicating that they may work together to target the ACA again sooner than expected.

“We’re not going to retrench into our corners or put up dividing lines,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans. “There’s too much at stake to get bogged down in all of that.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA), was even more optimistic of the possible repeal-rebirth, saying the lawmakers were “closer to repealing Obamacare than we have ever been before.”

Details on the new negotiations weren’t yet available, but the replacement bill still leaves 24 million more Americans without insurance after a decade than would under the ACA.

Despite the lack of clarity or consensus, and offering no details or schedule, Ryan told reporters that Congress needed to act quickly based on insurers’ timetables for developing premiums and benefit packages for 2018, a process that is supposed to start soon.

Fellow Republican lawmakers expressed their support of reviving the bill, noting that they hoped to find a compromise that would bring the party back together.

“I think we will have a better, stronger product that will unify the conference,” Rep. Raúl Labrador (ID) told The New York Times.

Whether or not the GOP will be able to create a retooled bill that will win approval has yet to be seen.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed to reporters that the administration has “had some discussions and listened to ideas.”  These new talks involve Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, as well as the Freedom Caucus, according to The New York Times.

“Are we actively planning an immediate strategy? Not at this time,” Spicer said.

The GOP had attempted to pass the repeal legislation through the budget resolution process, meaning that it would only have needed a simple majority to pass through the Senate. However, the divisions over this bill within the Republican party, specifically between the members of the Freedom Caucus and the broader party, prevented the AHCA from getting out of the House.

Prior to being pulled, all Democratic House members were slated to vote against the bill and the GOP could only stand to lose support from 22 of their own party. Almost every forecast of the vote had at least 30 Republicans already committed to voting the bill down, with about half that many leaning toward a “no” vote.

Reviving the bill, however, isn’t entirely a surprise. Shortly after the House was abruptly called into recess on Friday, Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL), a supporter of the bill, told reporters that he did not know what the next steps would be, though he did not rule out that the issue could still be addressed this year.

“It’s a good idea for everyone to go home, get some rest,” said Byrne. “Think; don’t react emotionally, and remember that we have a lot of other things to do here… This problem is not going away.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Rep. Dave Brat (VA), a member of the Freedom Caucus, seemed extremely optimistic, according to The Washington Post. “We’re going to get to yes, we’re going to get a better bill, and everyone is going to be very happy in the end.”

As for how any changes could impact consumers, Michael Miller, director of strategic policy at Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health advocacy organization, says it’s tough to tell at this point.

“It’s hard to answer what this means for consumers given what we know now,” he tells Consumerist. “Every time you throw a bunch of uncertainty on the table about what the marketplace will look like, you raise the possibly that carriers will exit or that they they will price that uncertainty into the premiums they charge.”

Additional reporting by Donna Rosato