The Long(?) and Winding Road of H.R. 1628: The American Health Care Act of 2017

After passing H.R. 1628, the ACHA orTrumpcare, by 217 votes to 213. the jubilant House Republicans loaded en masse on shiny motor coaches for the trip to the White House Rose Garden and their awaiting Champion. Nevermind that passage in the House was only the first play of several complex plays involved before it becomes the law of the land. Pesky details aside, the celebration was symbolically reminiscent of the winning Super Bowl team piling on in the end zone as the winning touchdown is thrown and simultaneously caught by the ‘Star Quarterback.’ Have you got that visual? Well, it wasn’t quite that physically raucous but the jubilation was there.

Keeping with the Super Bowl metaphor…Wait! The game isn’t over yet and there’s  a flag on the play! The referees in the Senate will call for an instant replay!  Yea, Senators!! I’ve never looked forward to a touchdown being called back so much in all my life. To what extent the Senate will go to correct the devastating consequences of the ACHA remains to be seen; however, initial reaction by some Senators is promising. Counting on nothing, the people’s fight–Democrats and Republicans–must be taken to the Senate.

Before any of us take comfort from the Senate phase of the ACHA , it’s sobering to note that “Republicans are using the ‘budget reconciliation’ process to move their bill forward. Budget reconciliation makes one bill each year immune to a filibuster (in the Senate), and the AHCA is this year’s bill.” This means Democrats can’t filibuster the bill in the Senate and it only takes 51 votes to pass.  Under the current rules of the Senate–which can be altered by a majority vote–it takes 60 votes to proceed to a vote on a bill when some senators want to continue debate forever, or filibuster.

H.R. 1628 has been in the making since March 23, 2010, when President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted. House Republicans have been making meaningless but loud gestures to repeal the ACA for seven long years at a taxpayer cost amounting to $millions.  Republicans have squandered $millions  and wasted seven years in time, effort and resources only to have zilch on January 20, 2017; hence, the mad scramble to satisfy Trump’s call to repeal and replace President Obama’s ACA.

Trump’s call was heeded and the House Leadership scrambled to cobble together a disastrous repeal and replacement bill amid warring factions. In spite of pleas and rebukes by the healthcare industry and stakeholder groups across the nation, the ACHA was speedily crafted and ultimately brought to passage. H.R. 1628 was actually sponsored by our own  Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6). It was introduced on March 20, 2017; failed to come to a vote twice; revived again; and, after several tweaks to satisfy the Freedom Caucus, was passed on May 4, 2017 without floor debate.

The following is a good summary of the vote, activity and  some of the more important components of H.R. 1628. It also has links for additional explanatory information. If we take the people’s fight to the Senate and beyond to the 2018 midterm elections, we have to know and understand what we’re fighting for and against.