House Speaker Paul Ryan has asserted that it is his party's moral responsibility to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The GOP health care bill, the American Health Care Act, has come under fire for potentially ending millions of Americans' access to health insurance.
On May 24, Ryan stated during an Axios News Shapers event that he would sooner face political backlash for repealing Obamacare than allow it to remain intact.
"I accept that we will get hit for this," Ryan told Axios. "We're in leadership, we don't have a choice, we're a majority ... I just don't think from a moral standpoint that's something we can do. We have to intervene to fix this problem because real people are actually getting hurt."
On May 4, GOP lawmakers passed the AHCA by a vote of 217 to 213, advancing it to the Senate. The legislation had not received a single Democratic vote and had been brought to the floor without a Congressional Budget Office estimate of how it would impact the health care system, according to The New York Times.
"I'm glad we went through it," Ryan said of the House vote. "It was very cathartic."
The speaker asserted that implementing the AHCA would result in a "more helpful, more vibrant marketplace ... Let's just buck up as a society and pay for the catastrophic illnesses."
Ryan predicted that GOP candidates would fare well in the 2018 midterms regardless of political fallout from the AHCA "because we're in the midst of keeping our promises."
On May 24, the CBO released an estimate of how the AHCA would impact health care coverage in America, projecting that the bill would result in 23 million fewer people having insurance by 2026 than if Obamacare was kept in place.
The GOP legislation would also reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over the course of 10 years, cut Medicaid by $834 billion and enable states to obtain waivers that would allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for Americans with pre-existing conditions, NPR reports.
That same day, a Fox News poll found that 40 percent of registered voters were in favor of the AHCA while 54 percent opposed it. The ACA retained majority support, as 54 percent of respondents said that Obamacare had mostly been beneficial for the country while 39 percent said it had been mostly detrimental.
On May 25, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, became emotional when reporters presented him with the CBO's findings. Meadows, whose caucus had been instrumental in shaping the Obamacare replacement bill, signaled that he was open to adding more funding to the health care proposal to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, the Washington Examiner reported.
"In the end what we've gotta do is make sure there is enough funds there to handle pre-existing conditions and drive down premiums," Meadows said. "If we can't do those three things then we will have failed."