House passes ACA expansion bill largely as symbolic gesture

House passes ACA reinforcement bill

June 30 (UPI) — Days after the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, the House on Monday passed legislation to expand the landmark healthcare law.

In a 234-179 vote, the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act mostly along party lines, though it is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

The White House has said President Donald Trump would veto the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., said the legislation would provide federal funding to states to lower the cost of premiums while expanding healthcare to more Americans and create a drug price negotiation mechanism named after Elijah E. Cummings, the late Democratic congressman for Maryland who died last year.

“It’s long past time to stop trying to tear down and throw out the ACA,” she said in a statement. “It’s time to work together to build the healthcare system Americans need and deserve.”

The bill was introduced last Wednesday, proposing to cap silver health insurance premiums at 8.5 percent of household income and authorize the Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

From the floor on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told lawmakers that they had a choice to either vote for the bill to strengthen the country’s healthcare protections or vote in complicity with Trump’s “campaign to dismantle families’ healthcare.”

“Make no mistake, a vote against this bill is a vote to weaken Americans’ health and financial security during a pandemic,” she said.

Trump has long campaigned to repeal the ACA, and on Thursday his administration filed an 82-page brief with the Supreme Court asking to rule the plan, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional.

The brief was filed in support of an 18-state coalition that is arguing the 2010 legislation was made invalid when Congress passed Trump’s tax reform bill in 2017 that removed the financial penalty from the individual mandate, which required people to maintain a minimum of health coverage or pay a tax.

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