It feels like just yesterday that we were breathing a sigh of relief over the total implosion of Trump’s vastly underbaked healthcare bill. But today, the House passed a slightly altered version of the so-called American Health Care Act, even though seemingly no one knows what’s in it.
The bill narrowly passed by a vote of 217 to 213, fully restoring House Speaker Paul Ryan’s sense of smugness that was briefly deflated after the bill crashed and burned in a vote last month.
“Today, this House has the opportunity to do more than just fulfill a promise,” Ryan told the House chamber before the vote. “We have the opportunity to raise our gaze and set a bold course for our country.”
The crux of the issue with the revised bill was whether preexisting conditions would be covered. Yesterday, the promise of an $8 billion infusion to cover such conditions was added by Representative Fred Upton, though it’s deeply unclear to most lawmakers whether that sum would be enough to cover those who need it. Upton, along with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, said they “believed” that amount would be adequate.
“It’s our understanding that the $8 billion over the five years will more than cover those that might be impacted and, as a consequence, keeps our pledge for those that, in fact, would be otherwise denied because of preexisting illnesses,” Upton said at the White House.
Considering the original version established a $100 billion fund that the sick could draw from until 2026, in addition to an extra $15 billion that would help insurers pay for their sickest clients, it seems unlikely. The original, higher amount was partially responsible for alienating the far-right Freedom Caucus, which derided the text of the original AHCA for too closely resembling Obamacare.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, was not hopeful. “The proposed Upton amendment is like administering cough medicine to someone with stage-four cancer,” he said in a statement. “This Republican amendment leaves Americans with preexisting conditions as vulnerable as they were before under this bill.”
In addition to not knowing how far, exactly, $8 billion would even stretch, it seems that many House Republicans never even bothered to read the bill on which they voted. The 814-page document was hastily rewritten just hours before the vote, and though there was plenty of time to queue up the theme song from Rocky, it seems that many elected officials had no idea what it was they were voting on.
Joe Wilson of "You lie!" fame acknowledges that "I haven't read the word-by-word" of the legislation but says he's read a "brief" on it
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) May 4, 2017
This clip of MSNBC asking Republicans in Congress if they've actually read the health care bill — spoliler: several ducked! — is great. pic.twitter.com/dP1pnXpnw9
— Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) May 4, 2017
Trump, for his part, appears to have barely cracked the bill’s first page. In an interview with John Dickerson on Face the Nation over the weekend, the president evaded the question of coverage for those with preexisting conditions with the élan of a baby that doesn’t want its diaper changed.
In the final count, twenty Republicans opposed the bill, and every House Democrat voted against it. All of New York City’s House representatives voted “no” on the bill, including Staten Island Republican Dan Donovan.
Now the bill will move to the Senate.