House Healthcare Bill Faces Uncertainty In Senate

May 8, 2017

Senate Republicans are wasting no time showing they have little use for the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Needing 216 votes for passage, the Republican-controlled House approved the plan 217-213, with 20 GOP defections. Among those voting “yes” was Republican Matt Gaetz – who represents the western Florida Panhandle.

“This is the true legacy of the last eight years,” said Gaetz. “A doubling of the national debt; four trillion [dollars] in additional spending, projected through Obamacare. And what have my constituents gotten from Obamacare? Higher taxes; higher premiums, unaffordable deductibles, crippling drug costs, fewer choices and more mandates.”

It now goes to the Senate, where many feel a chilly welcome awaits.

“I think the Republican House health insurance plan is quite deficient,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, during a visit to the University of West Florida on Friday. He pointed to three main areas of contention with the American Health Care Act: cutting Medicaid by $850 billion; less coverage for seniors while increasing costs, and taking away insurance for up to 24 million Americans. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) visiting the UWF Center for Cybersecurity.
Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

“Those are three reasons right off the bat that you ought to oppose it,” Nelson said. “And why was this rush to try to get it done and not even know how much it cost. Do you think that’s going to pass the Senate? That doesn’t have a chance of passing the Senate.”

One of the most popular Obamacare provisions bars insurers from refusing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. In the wake of the bill’s passage in the House, Americans are expressing fear that people already sick won't be able to get affordable insurance.

“What this new bill does, it takes away that guarantee,” said Nelson. “And don’t let anybody tell you that it doesn’t take away the guarantee. It does, it’s in black-and-white in there. It’s left up to the states.”

There's little doubt the measure will change in the Senate, assuming it survives. And the opposition is bipartisan. Nelson and most other Democrats are being joined by Republicans, such as Maine’s Susan Collins.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Credit senate.gov

“The Senate is starting from scratch, we’re going to draft our own bill and I’m convinced that we’re going to take the time to do it right,” Collins said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Collins believes there are major questions surrounding the House plan, which she said would undergo major surgery in response to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hope that the Senate would improve the bill.

“I think we will come up with a whole new fresh approach, that solves the legitimate flaws that do exist with the ACA,” said Collins. “My goal is to actually expand coverage for those 28 million Americans who still lack coverage, despite the ACA.”

Collins and another Republican – Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a physician – are co-sponsoring an alternate healthcare bill they introduced earlier this year.

The outspoken and immediate skepticism in the Senate appears to be a precursor to a long battle over the House bill. That in turn, is likely to cause more frustration for President Trump, who has frequently expressed disappointment in Congress’ slow-moving ways.