Berkeley community reacts to tabling of Obamacare repeal bill

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Michael Drummond/File

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Berkeley community members were pleased when congressional Republicans tabled the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, on Friday. The legislation that would have repealed and replaced the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

On Friday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the AHCA from consideration on the House floor, delaying the vote on the bill indefinitely after House Republicans were unable to find consensus on the measure. In a press conference, Ryan affirmed that “Obamacare is the law of the land” and will remain so until it is replaced.

“House Republicans’ failure to pass their cold-hearted, destructive repeal of the Affordable Care Act is a resounding victory for the resistance and the American people,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, in a press release.

AHCA would have significantly restructured Medicaid, a joint federal and state health insurance program for low-income people. Under the GOP plan, state Medicaid expansion would have been phased out, and Medicaid would have been administered among states on a capped basis.

Later amended versions of AHCA also called for weakening the “essential health benefits” requirement for health insurers, which could remove services such as maternity care and mental health resources from automatic coverage.

Lee criticized the lack of transparency in the authoring of AHCA.

“I guess (the bill authors) wrote it in a back room,” Lee said. “We did not have any hearings. … This was a closed process. They want to eliminate the essential health benefits … decimating health care for 24 million Americans. More people will die and get sick from this bill.”

According to a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office, the latest amended version of AHCA would “reduce federal deficits by $150 billion over the 2017-2026 period,” with 24 million people projected to be uninsured by 2026.

Some campus community members were also pleased that AHCA was tabled, but for different reasons.

“The tabling of (AHCA) was a good thing long term … because it didn’t go far enough in fixing the problems of Obamacare,” said David Craig, treasurer of Berkeley College Republicans. “If the AHCA had passed, that would have said to the country, ‘This is what Republicans think health care should look like,’ and when that turned out poorly, people would have blamed Republicans.”

According to the University Health Services website, AHCA would not have threatened Student Health Insurance Program coverage through 2017-18. The website does, however, express concern about the proposed repeal.

UHS spokesperson Kim LaPean said the Tang Center was a strong supporter of ACA and was pleased that AHCA was pulled.

“Though we understand there’s a fight ahead of us, we are pleased with the tabling (of AHCA),” LaPean said. “We don’t want (ACA) to be repealed.”

Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.