House passes Republican Obamacare replacement bill

In this photo taken Feb. 28, 2017, Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

House Republicans passed their health care reform bill Thursday, taking a big step toward fulfilling a 7-year campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, received 217 votes, with every Democrat and some Republicans in vulnerable seats voting against it.

Critics say the AHCA would roll back protections for patients with preexisting conditions and threaten Medicaid coverage. Republicans claim it is an improvement over the ACA, also known as Obamacare, because of rising deductibles and dwindling options many customers currently face on individual insurance markets.

A previous effort to bring the bill to the floor in March failed, but changes have since been made to win over the conservative Freedom Caucus. Amendments added this week provided an additional $8 billion for coverage of those with preexisting conditions, appeasing enough moderate Republicans to get it across the finish line, but Democrats say that funding is still far too little.

Republicans scheduled the vote without a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimated the original version of the bill would have left 24 million fewer people insured in ten years, many of them because of rising costs.

Prior to the vote on the AHCA Thursday, the House also voted to remove a provision that exempted members of Congress from the changes it makes.

Republicans were expected to head to the White House after the vote to celebrate with President Trump. The bill now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers expect substantial changes to be made.

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