July 11, 2012 (Washington, D.C.) -- Even though the outcome was predictable, there was plenty of heated debate Wednesday as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- again.
The House tally came out largely along party lines. Two-hundred-thirty-nine Republicans joined five Democrats voting for repeal. There were 185 votes against the measure -- all cast by Democrats. The House Republican leadership has tried to repeal or dismantle what they call "Obamacare" more than 30 times since the controversial legislation was passed two years ago.
"Why replay this bit of political theatre?" asked Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) about what likely is just a symbolic gesture.
However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says the effort has a greater purpose: "For those who did not support repeal the last time, it's a chance for our colleagues to reconsider."
Republicans continued to criticize the law as a huge tax increase that will force employers to drop coverage for millions of their workers and create a government takeover of health care.
"Obamacare takes away from patients the ability to make their own decisions and individual choices. ... Obamacare puts Washington in the driver's seat," says House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the repeal bill's chief sponsor.
But House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the "take away" of repealing health care reform is that its benefits would literally be taken away. "Take away, the Republicans say, protections for children with pre-existing conditions; take away prescription drug savings for seniors."
As with the previous attempts, it's unlikely that the measure will be taken up, much less passed, by the Democratically controlled Senate. If so it would be vetoed by President Obama.
The latest debate was triggered by last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the law's constitutionality on the grounds it is a tax -- a move that galvanized conservative opponents. But the decision may provide the law with a sense of inevitably.
Previous Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act have been supported by polls showing a majority of Americans don't like the law.
However, a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation points to another trend: 56% now say they would "like to see the law's detractors stop their efforts to block [the ACA's ] implementation."
Not surprisingly, Democrats polled overwhelmingly share the view that it's time to move onto other issues.
Coverage and Cost
Will the Affordable Care Act limit patient choice?
"Nothing could be further from the truth," says Sara Collins, PhD, a researcher with the Commonwealth Fund who studies health care reform. "You'll know what plans are available to you; what your premium costs will be ... so the information that people have to pick out a plan will be significantly different than is the case today."
While the Republicans and Democrats are billions of dollars apart on the cost of the legislation, Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton University health care economist, says the measure carries a hefty price tag.
"It does not by itself reduce health spending per capita or as a percent of gross domestic product, but it provides for the development of some tools to control the growth of spending better. You can't expect to give 30 million more Americans health insurance and not spend more."