AHCA: Not the health care reform news some were waiting for, expert says

Written on May 11, 2017

By Gary Hunt, senior content editor

House action last week to replace the Affordable Care Act might have been a big news story for a few days, but an Ohio law expert said it doesn’t represent much progress toward the reform some thought was possible this year.

The U.S. House on May 4 voted 217-213 to pass the American Health Care Act, which would repeal and overhaul parts of the ACA. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration – and therein lies the rub, said Joe Popp, JD, LLM, tax manager at Rea & Associates in Dublin, Ohio.

Popp“The House has passed something, but the Senate would have to pass the exact same thing for this to really be big news,” Popp said. “I think most people would tell you there’s a zero percent chance of that.”

According to some news reports, the Senate is going to build a new bill from the ground up, in which case, “you’re back to square one,” Popp said.

“The fact that this has passed out of the House is a hurdle that’s been passed, but the larger hurdle was always the Senate,” he said.

Should the bill be modified by the Senate, it would then go to a conference committee, in which both houses of Congress would attempt to agree to a final version. That’s a precarious political position, given the tight margin of the House vote. And – already – 2018 is looming.

“People are going to be starting to campaign for primaries,” Popp said, adding that it will influence how legislators and those who support and oppose them will behave.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of folks start coming down the pipe in the primary process,” he said.

Popp said the deep philosophical differences among legislators and the public make a stalemate the most likely situation in the short term.

“Someone at some point should have the idea to get rid of just one thing they all don’t like,” he said. “They can do that in a week. The reason they don’t want to do that is there are some unsavory things they want to drive through this, and to do that they need the big thing” they agree on. “They want the whole thing or nothing at all.”

So by all means keep monitoring the news, but much work remains for lawmakers before businesses will get actionable information.

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