The US House of Representatives today approved a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as 'Obamacare', in what could be President Donald Trump's first major legislative win.
But, for Trump to sign it into law, the bill needs the approval of the Senate, where the legislation is likely to face a tough battle, and the victory could prove short-lived.
The American Health Care Act was approved with a narrow majority of 217 for and 213 against, with just one vote to spare. While no Democrat backed the bill, a number of Republicans opposed it as well.
The American Health Care Act seeks to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, which enabled 20 million more Americans to get health insurance.
Obamacare, signed into law by former US president Barack Obama on 23 March 2010, offered subsidies and tax benefits to help people get coverage and provided for expansion of Medicaid.
The vote to repeal the Affordable Care act puts President Donald Trump, his first major achievement after taking office in January, puts him on a path to fulfilling one of his key campaign promises and could mark an end to a seven-year fight by Republican lawmakers.
The Republican legislation on healthcare would permit states to apply for waivers that allow them to opt out of a handful of crucial mandates in the Affordable Care Act.
Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the party has taken an important first step towards ''fixing'' the healthcare system. ''Obamacare is falling apart and has saddled the American people with rising costs, less choice, and skyrocketing premiums,'' she said.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, on the other hand, said Trump's healthcare bill that was passed on a party-line vote ''is atrocious and must be defeated'' in the Senate.
''Health care should not be about politics - it is about people - and this bill would harm people. The only beneficiaries of this bill are big insurance companies and the wealthiest among us, with the price tag being paid by everyone else through higher premiums, less coverage, and millions of vulnerable Americans losing their insurance,'' she said.
The new bill, that the Republicans managed to get passed in the House of Representatives is a revised form of an earlier bill that failed to win support from House Republicans in March (See: Bill to replace Obamacare fails as Trump's Republicans rebel).
The new bill removes clauses on protection for people with pre-existing conditions, a condition that conservatives had opposed.
The initial version of the American Health Care Act was previously rejected by the hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus, who had denounced it as ''Obamacare-lite''. But, an addition of $8 billion in support to states helped win the hardliners over.
The moderates, however, are still reluctant to support a bill that takes away protection to Americans who are sick.
The bill will now go to the Senate, where Republicans are split over the measure and Democrats are unified in opposition.
There is no guarantee that the legislation, called the American Health Care Act, will pass in the Senate, where the Republicans hold a slender 52-48 majority in the 100-seat chamber.