GOP health care bill moves on, for now


House Republicans, including all four from Kansas, fulfilled a key campaign promise by advancing a bill Thursday that repeals much of the Affordable Care Act. But the measure seems unlikely to pass the Senate, at least in its present form.

And in their rush to pass the bill without even knowing its cost or impact, the Republicans were guilty of legislative malpractice – worse than when Democrats forced through the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have promised to repeal ACA since its 2010 enactment, and the House voted more than 50 times on various repeal measures in the past half dozen years. But they struggled to agree on a bill after gaining control of Congress and the White House this year.

The most conservative House Republicans helped sink an earlier version of the American Health Care Act. But after intense negotiations – and a lot of lobbying and arm-twisting – Republicans were able to pass a revised bill by a narrow 217-213 vote.

“The AHCA is a historic first step toward putting people – not politics – back at the center of our health care system,” Rep. Ron Estes, R-Wichita, said in a prepared statement.

The Affordable Care Act does need an overhaul. It is too cumbersome and doesn’t do enough to control costs.

But the House bill may not get far. Republicans barely hold a majority in the Senate – and may need 60 votes to pass some of the bill’s provisions.

GOP senators also made clear they will take their time in reviewing the bill. That didn’t happen in the House.

After mocking former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for her (out of context) quote about needing to pass the ACA “so that you can find out what is in it,” the House rammed through a bill that few lawmakers likely read.

They even approved the bill before the Congressional Budget Office had time to determine its cost and impact – a giant red flag.

Why the rush? They know the CBO will determine that millions of people will lose their health insurance, and the cost of insurance for older (non-Medicare) Americans and those with pre-existing conditions could jump dramatically. After that report comes out – possibly next week – it will be even more difficult to pass the bill.

Early polling also shows that the public overwhelmingly opposes key provisions of the bill, including the state waivers. That opposition could build.

But for now, the bill is advancing – something that appeared unlikely only a few weeks ago. And House Republicans can tell constituents they honored their pledge – even though the process was reckless and the achievement could be short-lived.