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Legislative Updates

Senate votes to gut Obamacare...again

On Thursday, following lots of debate on numerous amendments, the Senate passed the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act (H.R. 3762), a budget reconciliation bill aimed at repealing significant portions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The Senate bill calls for the repeal of penalties for both employers and individuals who are non-compliant with the current health care law that requires most individuals to obtain health coverage and employers to offer health insurance. The bill also would repeal the current law’s Medicaid expansion and eliminates subsidies for individuals who need help buying coverage through the insurance exchanges.

Most notably, the legislation would nix taxes on select high-value employer-sponsored health insurance plans, otherwise known as the “Cadillac Tax.” In addition, the bill aims to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, a moved that expands on the House-passed version that restricted Medicaid funding for abortion providers.

Under the budget reconciliation process, both the House and Senate must pass an identical budget that includes instructions for each of the committees of jurisdiction; this happened earlier this year.  House and Senate budget committees then bundled reports to send to their respective full chambers for  floor votes. The House voted on its reconciliation measure in October (see Legislative Update). Now that both chambers have voted on their bills, the budget will be sent to President Obama, who is expected to once again veto any changes to the Affordable Care Act.

The reconciliation process has become a tool used to be used to circumvent the 60-vote Senate threshold needed to break a filibuster, requiring only 51 votes. The reconciliation process was used to enact the Affordable Care Act in 2011. Now the Republicans in Congress are trying to use the same process to repeal it, taking health insurance coverage from some 16 million Americans. Since there are not enough votes in Congress to override the president’s veto, the GOP will once again fail.

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