After Obamacare Extends Coverage To 16 Million Americans, House Republicans Propose Repealing It

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

On Tuesday, House Republicans are planning to unveil a proposed budget that would reportedly overhaul the country’s health care policies — by partially privatizing Medicare, dramatically restructuring Medicaid, and completely repealing Obamacare.

The members of the House Budget Committee previewed their proposal, entitled “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,” in a video released on Monday. Compared to previous budget proposals spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 2016 budget appears to include less detailed plans about how exactly Republicans plan to overhaul entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Nonetheless, the new plan from Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who chairs the committee, represents the latest effort in the GOP’s ongoing quest to repeal and replace Obamacare — an effort that has spanned the last several years, despite little discernible progress.

In addition to repealing Obamacare altogether, the House committee’s proposed budget will also reportedly include parliamentary language that will allow the Senate to pass Obamacare repeal with a simple majority. This process, called “budget reconciliation,” allows the GOP-controlled Senate to deliver their policies straight to President Obama’s desk, which he then has the opportunity to veto.

The proposal to roll back the Affordable Care Act comes on the same week that the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans have gained insurance coverage under the law.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Health and Human Services, the country’s uninsurance rate has fallen by 35 percent thanks to the health care reform law. Federal officials say that represents the largest drop in the number of uninsured Americans in the past 40 years, and have referred to it as “quite simply an historic reduction.”

The coverage gains have been most dramatic for communities of color, who have historically lacked access to affordable insurance at higher rates. Since Obamacare’s first enrollment period opened in October 2013, the uninsured rate among Latinos has fallen by 12.3 percent. During the same time period, the uninsured rate among black Americans was nearly cut in half, dropping from 22.4 percent to 13.2 percent.

“Today’s news is good for the health and financial security of millions of Americans,” Meena Seshamani, the director of the Office of Health Reform for HHS, said on Monday. “I think we would all hope this trend continues.”

The trend will not continue, however, if Obamacare’s major coverage expansion is repealed. The recent progress is also threatened by a pending Supreme Court challenge to the law that contends Obamacare’s tax credits should not be available in the 34 states with federally-run marketplaces, something that could undermine affordable coverage for an estimated 13 million Americans.

Next Monday, the Obama administration will mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the landmark health care reform law.