The Senate on December 3 approved by a margin of 52-47 a budget reconciliation bill, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Bill of 2015 (HR 3762), which repeals portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148). The Senate version, in the form of an amendment by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calls for stronger measures than the bill approved by the House on October 23 (TAXDAY, 2015/10/26, C.1).
The bill is essentially considered a message from Republicans that the health care law is a failure. President Obama has no intention of signing the legislation if it arrives on his desk. The White House on December 2 issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating that the President would veto the measure.
“By repealing numerous, key elements of current law, this legislation would take away critical benefits and health care coverage from hardworking middle-class families. The bill also would remove policies that are expected to help slow the growth in health care costs and that have improved the quality of care patients receive,” said the White House.
The House has voted 56 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but the Senate has never considered any of those bills.
The latest measure calls for the repeal of the individual and employer mandates, as well as the medical device tax, the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-end health care plans and the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which holds sway over health care choices.
“This bill is a big step toward dismantling Obamacare,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said when the Ways and Means Committee marked up the legislation on September 29 (TAXDAY, 2015/09/30, C.2). “Through reconciliation, we have the opportunity to get a repeal bill not only through the House—but actually to the president’s desk.”
In Senate floor action prior to a final vote, lawmakers approved an amendment by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., that strikes the reinstatement of the tax on employee health insurance premiums and health plan benefits. The amendment was agreed to by a vote of 90-10. The House will now have to approve the Senate’s amended version of the bill before it can be sent to the White House.
A reconciliation instruction is a provision in a budget resolution directing one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring spending, revenues or the debt ceiling into conformity with the budget resolution. Budget reconciliation requires only a simple majority (51) of votes for passage.
By Jeff Carlson, Wolters Kluwer News Staff