After seven years of railing against Barack Obama’s signature healthcare plan, House Republicans failed to muster enough support to hold a vote for their replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, and have withdrawn it. Republicans needed 215 votes for the measure to pass. According to a Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday, only 17 percent of Americans supported the bill.
House Republicans and Democrats spent hours debating the bill on the floor ahead of the scheduled afternoon vote. On Friday, hours before the vote, Ryan reportedly met with Trump to tell him Republicans did not have the required number of votes to pass the bill. Just after the meeting, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted that the bill had been pulled.
The bill has been plagued with problems since it was introduced on March 6. The original draft maintained the protection of people with pre-existing conditions, allowed children to stay on a parent’s plan until 26, and continued to cover those on Medicaid. The plan did away with the Obamacare individual mandate, a fine imposed on those who can afford insurance but opted out, but instead allowed insurance companies to raise premiums on anyone who faces a lapse in insurance coverage. The plan also would freeze Medicaid expansion in 2020, meaning that millions of low-income people would lose access to healthcare. Overall, the bill benefited healthy and high-income Americans while putting low-income and sick people at a greater disadvantage. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that 24 million Americans will lose insurance by 2026 if the AHCA replaces the ACA.
The House vote was originally scheduled for Thursday, March 23, but Republicans were unable to reach a consensus and delayed the vote until Friday. On Thursday night, to appease the demands of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, House Speaker Paul Ryan quietly introduced an amendment that would gut the “essential health benefits” protected by Obamacare. Under the amendment, the healthcare replacement bill no longer protects women or those with pre-existing conditions from price discrimination by insurance companies, and does not require insurance companies to cover prenatal, maternity, or newborn care, emergency visits, prescription drugs, hospitalization, outpatient care, mental health care, and more. Instead, the amendment allows states to determine what is considered “essential.”
Trump also issued Republicans an ultimatum on Thursday, demanding either that the House hold a vote and pass the AHCA as is, or the repeal effort dies and Obamacare stays. Led by Trump, the Republican’s years-long obsession with repealing Obamacare on Friday instead turned into a testament to Obamacare’s success.
Update (4:40 pm EST): In a press conference following the bill’s withdrawal, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us.” Ryan, who met with Trump to recommend pulling the bill, attributed the failure to reach a consensus as a result of “growing pains” of “moving from an opposition party to a governing party.” Though Ryan made last minute concessions to appease the House Freedom Caucus hardliners, he said that “not enough” caucus members supported the bill.
Costa, who spoke with Trump over the phone, told MSNBC that that “the bill’s not going to come up again, at least in the near future.” Trump attributed the bill’s failure to Democrats, who opposed it, and told the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman that he predicts Democrats will work for a compromise when Obamacare “explodes.”