Forget politics. Independent analyses of both the House version and the Senate version of the GOP's replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – better known as Obamacare – would have been a disaster for America. Anything that takes away healthcare from 22 million Americans, many of which are the poorest, sickest, oldest, and youngest members of society, is objectively wrong.
After a breakneck vote to allow discussion on the bill, the final iteration of the GOP-authored Better Care and Reconciliation Act (BCRA) died its final death on the floor of the Senate Tuesday night, by a margin of 57 to 43. Due to a technicality, it required 60 votes – a supermajority – to pass, but all Democrats and nine Republicans voted it down.
The only remaining option was to vote on a clean repeal of the ACA, which would have left 32 million people without healthcare, easily the worst possible option. This plan has been mooted for a few weeks now, despite the fact that several Republican Senators have said that they wouldn’t support repeal without a viable replacement.
At the urging of the President, the Senate Republicans went ahead with the vote to repeal Obamacare anyway. This bill, after all was said and done, needed a simple majority of 51 to pass. Predictably, they lost this vote too, by a margin of 55-to-45. This means that, for the foreseeable future, Obamacare remains the law of the land, and 22 million people get to keep their healthcare.
The debate still rages on the Senate floor regarding the House version of the healthcare bill, a “skinny” repeal of Obamacare (which involves removing the individual mandate that everyone must get health insurance, and so on). However, it’s safe to say that the Republican agenda to repeal and replace the ACA has just had its life support switched off.
Republican Senator John McCain made a dramatic return to Congress yesterday in order to cast his votes on the healthcare bill. Although he gave a fiery speech denouncing the awful state of the GOP efforts to pass a viable healthcare option, he ended up lending his support to the BCRA anyway.
Nevertheless, he was right on one aspect of the debate: If Republicans want a win, they need to work with Democrats.
Although controversial at the time, Obamacare has become increasingly popular with the public – by a margin of around 2-to-1 – since the thought of a potential repeal has reared its head. It has ensured that millions of disadvantaged Americans gained healthcare, and has unquestionably saved thousands of lives as a result.
It’s far from perfect though, and could do with some improvement. If both parties worked together on passing a bipartisan healthcare bill that did just that, rather than merely robbing millions of healthcare, then the nation would indubitably be better off.