Congress Votes on Bill to Replace Obamacare

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is leading President Donald Trump's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Republicans rushed to Congress early Thursday to vote in the House on a healthcare bill that will cut the Medicaid healthcare program for low-income Americans by $880 billion and hike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, according to analysts.

"We're going to pass this thing today," Rep. Mark Meadows, who heads the hard-right Republican Freedom Caucus, told Bloomberg early Thursday. The bill is expected to come to a vote at 1:30 pm.

Meadows's group, which President Trump blamed for the American Health Care Act's (AHCA) initial failure in March, has been wrangling in negotiations with moderate Republicans to tweak the bill in a way that will get the most votes from both sides.

"New healthcare plan is on its way," President Trump tweeted on Sunday, April 30, promising the new bill "will have much lower premiums & deductibles while at the same time taking care of pre-existing conditions!" But analysts and advocacy groups have said that's not what the revised bill actually does.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that under the new bill, 14 million more people would be uninsured by 2018. Medicaid would be cut by $880 billion and there would be 14 million fewer people enrolled to Medicaid by 2026—about 17 percent less than the current figure.

Read more: New Republican healthcare bill exempts Congress from changes to Obamacare

While the costs of the revised bill haven't been scored by the CBO, the score remains "substantially similar," said Republican Texas Representative Michael Burgess told CNN early Thursday.

The bill includes an amendment by New Jersey House Representative Tom MacArthur allowing states to ignore provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) barring health insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with pre-existing conditions.

"The return of discrimination based on medical history could increase insurance costs by tens of thousands of dollars," an assessment of the draft bill by the nonpartisan policy think tank Center for American Progress found. "Based on our analysis, we estimate that individuals with even relatively mild pre-existing conditions would pay thousands of dollars above standard rates to obtain coverage," the group said.

"This harmful legislation still puts an Age Tax on older Americans and puts vulnerable populations at risk through a series of backdoor deals that attempts to shift responsibility to states," said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in a statement last week. "Older Americans need affordable health care services and prescriptions. This legislation still goes in the opposite direction, increasing insurance premiums for older Americans and not doing anything to lower drug costs," she said.

In early March, President Trump tweeted that he is "working on a new system where there will be competition" in the drug sector and "pricing for the American people will come way down."

The revised bill, however, does "nothing to lower the cost of health care or prescription drugs," said LeaMond, whose group represents 38 million Americans.

On Wednesday, ahead of the vote LeaMond said AARP maintains firm opposition to the healthcare bill and that the bill has been made "even worse."

"Changes under consideration that would allow states to waive" the rules against discriminating against pre-existing conditions, she said, "would be devastating for the 25 million Americans 50-64 who have a deniable pre-existing condition.