Still, the vote was laden with political implications. Less than five months before presidential and congressional elections, it forced Republicans to go on the record about the ACA and showed anew the parties’ highly charged ideological differences on health care — an issue that consistently polls as a prime concern among U.S. voters. Democrats portrayed themselves as champions of access to affordable care at a critical time. Republicans characterized the opposing party as authors of a failed law and proponents of tax increases.
Historically, Democrats engender greater public trust than Republicans on their handling of the issue, and arguments that the GOP sought to deprive consumers of health care helped Democrats take the House majority two years ago.
Monday’s vote symbolized that House Democrats have a path to make health insurance and treatment more accessible at a moment when the novel coronavirus — and the jobs the pandemic has cost — has strained the U.S. health system, robbed millions of Americans of health benefits and caused nearly 125,000 deaths nationwide.
Substantively, the legislation would add to some of the ACA’s central elements by expanding eligibility for insurance subsidies to those at higher incomes and pressuring more than a dozen states to expand Medicaid. It also would blunt some of the ways the Trump administration has watered down the law.
The hours of debate before the vote allowed Democrats to point out, again and again, that the Trump administration is seeking to invalidate the ACA in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that was initiated by a group of Republican attorneys general who contend the entire law is unconstitutional.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. on inequality in health care as “the most shocking and the most inhuman” form of injustice, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “As lives are shattered by the coronavirus, the protections of the Affordable Care Act are more important now, more than ever.” Noting that both Trump and congressional Republicans promise to preserve the law’s protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, Pelosi said: “Oh really. Then why are you in the United States Supreme Court to overturn them?”
Three years after a Republican Congress failed to pass a series of ACA repeal plans, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), accused Republicans of producing no substitute for the ACA. “Where is the bill? Where is the meat?” Hoyer said.
For their part, Republicans, who have tried more than 70 times in the past decade to repeal the ACA or undercut it, cast the ACA as a failure in not making health care more affordable. Their characterization comes against a backdrop of polls showing the law has become more popular, and new data showing that 487,000 Americans who lost jobs and health coverage during the pandemic have signed up for ACA health plans.
The ACA is the “most unpopular health care plan in American history,” said Rep. Kevin…
Read More: Democratic-controlled House passes expansion of Affordable Care Act