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US House to Vote on Health Care Thursday


Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., second from right, speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, May 3, 2017. From left are, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas; Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.; and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law commonly known as Obamacare.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters late Wednesday to expect a vote the next day.

“It’ll pass,” he said of the legislation. “It’s a good bill.” He said the House is holding the vote because Republicans finally have enough votes to pass it.

Two Republicans switch

Earlier Wednesday, two prominent moderate Republican congressmen said they would support their party’s health care legislation.

Representatives Fred Upton and Billy Long reversed course after negotiating an amendment with President Donald Trump Wednesday at the White House. The amendment adds to the proposal $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions afford coverage.

Before leaving the White House, Long told reporters the only way he would support the new measure was “to make sure those people are covered because they need to be covered. Period.”

Upton, author of several Obamacare repeal bills, said their amendment would put “downward pressure” on premium costs.

Pelosi: ‘This is deadly!’

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said despite the addition of money to help those with pre-existing conditions, the bill “will make it impossible for millions of Americans to afford the health coverage that they need. This is deadly. This is deadly!”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at the daily White House briefing the number of House members supporting the measure “continues to grow” and added the president “has been on the phone constantly” in attempts to garner more support.

Focus on essential benefits

The debate centers on an amendment that would give states the ability to apply for exemptions from “essential” benefits in the current law, such as emergency and maternity care, and from uniform insurance rate requirements for people of the same age — regardless of their health conditions.

Upton predicted the bill would come to a vote Thursday before the House goes on an 11-day recess.

Upton’s reversal was particularly significant because he is a respected voice on health care issues and former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Republican leaders can absorb a maximum of only 22 “no” votes from their party and still win approval. About 20 congressmen, mostly moderates, are publicly opposed to the bill. Even more lawmakers have said they are still undecided.

The White House is hoping the president’s meeting with the influential lawmakers will help persuade some of the undecided moderates to vote in favor of the bill.