The greatly anticipated Republican legislation to alter the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 healthcare law better known as Obamacare, has finally been revealed.
On Monday Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act. It abolished many major features of Obamacare, including the controversial individual mandate, which imposed a tax penalty on Americans who did not buy insurance. Insurance plans would also no longer be required to cover preventative care screenings emergency room visits and lab tests. The bill also undoes the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide insurance.
In place of the ACA’s income-based tax credits, the American Health Care Act would introduce age-based subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums.
“It’s immensely complicated,” says Texas Tribune DC bureau chief Abby Livingston.
The American Health Care Act would also leave two popular features of Obamacare intact: People under age 26 can remain on their parents’ healthcare plans and pre-existing conditions are still covered.
“This bill is moving at light speed and the Congressional Budget Office has not scored it, which means there’s no sense of how much this is actually going to cost on the federal level as well [as the state level],” Livingston says. “We are in an opaque place on trying to understand the impact of this on a local level and a federal level.”
Given the confusion surrounding the new legislation health policy experts and doctors alike have been fielding calls from Texans on whether they should keep paying for their existing health insurance plan.
Livingston cautions people not to do anything rash. “This is not a law yet, [but] it could be,” she says. “Republicans are hoping that it will be passed into law, the president will sign it, by April.”
This may be unlikely however given that Obamacare took a year longer to pass than expected.
The new Republican plan is also extremely contentious.
“It’s very polarizing, not among Republicans and Democrats but within Republicans against Republicans,” Livingston says.
Texans Republicans are divided on the new plan. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) described it as “a new chapter of freedom for the American people.” Sen. John Cornyn called the plan “a major step in the right direction.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, an outspoken critic of Obamacare, has yet to take a position on the new plan.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), on the other hand, went so far as to liken the new plan to “horse excrement.”
Written by Molly Smith.