Republicans on Capitol Hill Wednesday will get something they've dreamed about for seven years-a meaningful vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Two House committees will begin voting on a sweeping proposal to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare. The central aims of the GOP plan are to eliminate the ACA rule requiring everyone to have health coverage or pay a penalty and to offer individuals who don't have health coverage through their jobs a new way of purchasing coverage. Rather than buy government-subsidized plans from an exchange, the federal government would provide tax credits for individuals who buy coverage for themselves and their families.
Today's votes in the House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees begin this morning and are expected last into this evening, all of it marked by partisan bickering.
The Democrats' game plan will be aimed largely at generating public opposition by offering roughly 75 amendments that highlight fears the GOP plan will result in more expensive insurance and fewer people with coverage.
Democrats are expected to force GOP members to vote against amendments that:
- Require that the legislation not force children off current health coverage
- Give the public more time to get familiar with the Republican plan, which was unveiled only Monday night
- Make the bill more beneficial to people with disabilities, seniors and working families.
- Remove GOP provisions stripping federal funding for Planned Parenthood and denying tax credits for insurance plans that cover abortions.
The GOP is divided too. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus oppose the creation of tax credits and say Medicaid won't be rolled back enough. So it's unclear if the bill has enough GOP support to pass the committees.
The chairmen of the panels, Reps. Kevin Brady of Texas and Greg Walden of Oregon, have a difficult the job of making sure their votes don't descend into chaos. To prevent that, they could call early votes before all the proposed amendments have been taken up or they could suspend today's proceedings in late afternoon and resume voting Thursday.
While the potential fall-out from an augmented or completely revamped health care agenda hasn't been wholly felt some companies are already taking it on the chin both as a result of healthcare reform and Donald Trump's marked displeasure with the drug and biotech industries.
Drugmaker stocks moved lower on Tuesday following Trump's tweet. Large-cap stocks including Pfizer(PFE) - Get Report , Novartis(NVS) - Get Report , Merck(MRK) - Get Report and Amgen(AMGN) - Get Report were sharply lower Tuesday. The Health Care SPDR ETF (XLV) - Get Report slid 0.76% Tuesday, though it crawled back on Wednesday, slightly.
Others, like HCA Holdings(HCA) - Get Report and Tenet Healthcare(THC) - Get Report have moved higher from the start of the year, as we get more clarity that Trump's plan wouldn't leave millions of Americans without health care.