House Votes to Repeal Health Reform

But Republican Effort to Overturn Health Reform Unlikely to Succeed in the Senate

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on January 19, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 19, 2011 -- The Republican-led U.S. House voted to repeal the health care reform law Wednesday, fulfilling a GOP campaign promise to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed the House 245 to 189. Republicans voted unanimously to repeal health reform; only three Democrats voted for repeal. Still, few observers expect the vote to mount to more than a political effort since Democrats still control the Senate and the White House.

Republicans lambasted the health reform bill as an expensive and overly bureaucratic upending of the current medical insurance system. “This is all about the government. It’s about, ‘Washington knows best,' and it’s wrong,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Wednesday’s vote is part of a three-part GOP strategy. Republicans now plan to formulate a new health care reform bill highlighting their priorities, including boosting access to lower-cost, slimmed-down insurance policies and making it harder to sue doctors for medical malpractice.

Republicans are also preparing efforts to cut off the funding needed to implement the law, effectively starving it of the money needed to get started.

“We must cut it down and put something new in its place,” Camp said.

Democrats used the debate to highlight the law’s consumer-friendly provisions that would be negated if repeal were successful. They include a ban on insurance companies denying policies because of pre-existing medical conditions, new requirements forcing insurance companies to extend insurance to dependents up to age 26, and a 10-year effort to close Medicare’s prescription drug coverage gap, known as the “doughnut hole.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the House minority leader, said the GOP repeal effort would “put health care insurance companies back in charge of the health of the American people.”

The repeal bill now heads to the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader, has said he will not allow the bill to come to the floor. But Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed Wednesday to use Senate rules to eventually force a vote on repeal.

Regardless of Senate action, President Obama has said he would veto any effort at a wholesale repeal of the health reform law. Obama has signaled a willingness to alter parts of the law, including some of its tax provisions.