In a major step forward for President Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal ObamaCare, the Senate has voted to start debating a new Republican healthcare bill.
In a tight vote, several Republicans previously opposed to aspects of the plan changed their minds.
Prior attempts to replace ObamaCare have collapsed in recent weeks due to divisions in the GOP.
President Donald Trump had made scrapping the policy a key campaign pledge.
On July 25, the Senate began the debate-and-vote process which is expected to last a number of days. Nine Republicans voted against the first amendment – to repeal and replace ObamaCare – and it failed to pass.
Earlier, President Trump had warned GOP’s senators of the repercussions of not pushing through the measures to repeal and replace ObamaCare, known formally as the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP, which needed a majority for the motion to go ahead, secured 51 votes after Vice-President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaker in support of the legislation.
Senator John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, received a standing ovation as he returned to Congress to cast his “Yes” vote.
Donald Trump tweeted his thanks to the Arizona senator for playing “such a vital role” in the vote: “Congrats to all Rep. We can now deliver grt [great] healthcare to all Americans.”
It remains unclear what measure senators will now debate and vote on.
There appear to be two choices – either a repeal-and-replace bill that has already struggled to win support across the party, or a bill that enacts repeal with a two-year delay, in the hope of finding agreement before that time elapses.
However, senators have also considered a “skinny bill”, a far narrower measure that would scale back some of the more controversial elements in an effort to get a wider consensus.
However, March 23 vote was delayed because of opposition from some Republicans – despite President Trump’s repeated attempts to persuade them to back the legislature.
The president now says he wants to move on and vote – whatever the result on March 24.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said this was exactly the message delivered to Republican lawmakers at a meeting behind closed doors on March 23.
Image source Wikipedia
House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “For seven-and-a-half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families, and tomorrow we’re proceeding.”
Meanwhile, New York’s Republican representative Chris Collins said: “The president has said he wants a vote tomorrow, up or down.
“If for any reason it is down, we are just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda.”
Repealing and replacing ObamaCare was a major plank of Donald Trump’s election campaign.
March 23 vote postponement is a setback for the president who had insisted he would win the numbers to pass it through the lower chamber of Congress on that day.
Earlier on March 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said President Trump had made a “rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready”.
The healthcare bill needs 215 votes to pass but ran into opposition mainly from conservative Republicans who believed it did not roll back enough of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
ObamaCare helped 20 million previously uninsured Americans get health insurance but has been plagued by increases in insurance premiums, which were also a problem before the health law.
Donald Trump promised a new law that would cover more people and at a lower cost.
A second legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law (ObamaCare) will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, the court has said.
The court will determine whether the law allows health insurance subsidies to millions of Americans.
The challenge was brought by conservatives who argue that only states, not the federal government, can pay such subsidies.
Residents of 36 states rely on the federal government for the payments.
The sweeping healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act, established health insurance exchanges run by the federal government and by 16 states that provide subsidies to help Americans purchase insurance premiums.
In 2014, more than eight million people signed up for coverage on the exchanges.
The Supreme Court will hear a second legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law
The law’s conservative opponents argue a close reading of the statute only allows subsidies to be paid by states that have their own healthcare exchanges, not by the federal government, which serves residents of states that have not established their own.
Currently, 36 states do not have exchanges of their own. Should the Supreme Court find in favor of the plaintiffs, more than five million people could find their insurance costs rise dramatically.
In July, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the law’s opponents, but later threw the ruling out so it could rehear the case.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in March, with a decision in June.
On November 7, the White House dismissed the lawsuit as a partisan attempt to undermine the law.
“These lawsuits won’t stand in the way of the Affordable Care Act and the millions of Americans who can now afford health insurance because of it,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
“We are confident that the financial help afforded millions of Americans was the intent of the law and it is working as Congress designed.”
The ObamaCare passed with no Republican votes in 2010, and has been a focus of conservative outrage ever since.
In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the central provision of the law requiring Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty, in a 5-4 decision.
Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning amid problematic launch of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, US media report.
The ObamaCare – regarded by the president’s supporters as one of his main domestic achievements – has been marked by early technical problems and delays.
Kathleen Sebelius has been health secretary since Barack Obama took office in 2009.
The reports say Barack Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current budget director, to replace her.
The New York Times reported that Kathleen Sebelius had made the decision to resign herself.
Barack Obama had resisted calls for the health secretary to stand down after the websites where people could enroll for health insurance ran into problems last October.
Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning amid problematic launch of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law
After the rocky start, the White House now points to the more than 7 million people who have signed-up for coverage on federal and state-run marketplaces sites created by the Affordable Care Act.
Barack Obama says the program was “here to stay”.
Republicans see it as inappropriate government intrusion into the healthcare industry. US residents face a tax penalty next year if they do not have some form of health coverage.
The 2010 law is intended to extend health insurance to the roughly 48 million Americans who do not receive it through their employers, the government, or a privately purchased plan.
It also aims to slow the growth in the cost of healthcare and requires private plans to meet a certain level of coverage.
Analysts say Republicans in Congress may use Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination proceedings to focus on criticism of the law ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The ObamaCare remains controversial among the American public, as some people have seen their insurance costs rise or their old plans cancelled, and others object to having to purchase insurance at all.
The Obamacare enrollment period ended midnight Monday with hundreds of thousands of Americans signing up for insurance under Barack Obama’s healthcare program, in a frantic bid to beat a key deadline.
Officials believe they have reached their target of seven million sign-ups.
March 31 was the last day for most Americans to register for coverage and avoid a penalty next year.
Barack Obama’s allies say the Affordable Care Act will bring healthcare to those who need it most, but Republicans say it is a massive waste of money.
The initial launch of the system last autumn was dogged by website crashes and technical problems.
But analysts say White House officials will have been delighted with the last day of enrollment.
“What I think is important, because I know there’s been a lot of focus on glitches, is that there has been a remarkable story since the dark days of October and November,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The Obamacare enrollment period ended midnight Monday with hundreds of thousands of Americans signing up for insurance (photo Los Angeles Times)
The Obamacare law has proved deeply unpopular among many voters, and Republicans are expected to tap into that discontent in November’s mid-term elections.
The elections will determine the shape of Congress for Barack Obama’s last two years in office.
Despite Jay Carney’s upbeat message, the federally-run health insurance marketplace website healthcare.gov was briefly out of service for several hours twice on Monday.
Visitors were initially advised the site was down for maintenance or directed to a virtual waiting room.
Spokesman Aaron Albright blamed a “technical problem”.
Meanwhile, long queues were reported at hospitals and clinics, where counselors were helping people sign up for insurance.
At a Houston community centre, immigrants from Ethiopia, Nepal, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and other countries were trying to enroll after having failed to register previously.
Many were waiting for interpreters to help them through the process.
Although March 31 was officially the last day people could sign up, millions could be eligible for extensions.
This includes people who had begun enrolling but did not finish before the deadline as a result of errors or website glitches.
Extensions may also be available to those prevented from enrolling because of a natural disaster, for example, or because they were subjected to domestic abuse.
The 2010 law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is intended to extend health insurance to the roughly 48 million Americans who do not receive it through their employers, the government, or a privately purchased plan.
The Obamcare program also aims to slow the growth in the cost of healthcare through various measures and requires private plans to meet a certain level of coverage.
The health law has been vigorously opposed by the Republican Party and by conservatives in the private sector, who see it as an inappropriate government intrusion into the massive healthcare industry and an affront to personal liberty.
Obamcare also remains controversial among the American public, as some people have seen their insurance costs rise or their old plans cancelled, and others object to having to purchase insurance at all.
Healthcare.gov and similar marketplace websites run by some states are a key element of the Affordable Care Act, providing a clearing-house for people to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families, often with generous subsidies.
Those who are not covered by private insurance or government programs by the end of Monday will face a tax penalty, although the Obama administration has extended a grace period for those who can prove they have had technical issues with the site.
Total enrolment through the federal and state-run websites has jumped since the beginning of March, from 4.2 million to 6 million on Friday.