US President Barack Obama [official website] on Friday vetoed a bill [HR 3762] that would have repealed his signature health care law. The president explained [press release] that the proposed bill “would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) [text], but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.” He further stated that 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage since ACA came into effect, bringing the nation’s uninsured rate to its lowest level ever. He added that with the passage of the health care law, costs are lower than expected and quality of health care is higher improving patient safety and saving an estimated 87,000 lives. The bill also included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood.
The Reconciliation Act is viewed to be a largely symbolic attempt by Congress to repeal the ACA since Congress currently lacks the votes needed to override a presidential veto. The repeal bill is one of the first pieces of legislation [JURIST report] against the ACA to reach the president’s desk in the past five years. The ACA [JURIST backgrounder] has generated legal controversy since its passage. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) [official website] reports that between 2010 and 2015, at least 21 states enacted laws attempting to challenge or completely opt out of mandatory provisions of the ACA. Most recently the ACA was amended by the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act [text], which allows states to consider employers with 51 to 100 employees as large employers, removing certain restrictions on small employers from those employers in this category. In June 2015 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in King v. Burwell [SCOTUSblog materials] that tax credits available to those who buy health insurance through state exchanges are also available to those who buy it through the federal exchange. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that closely held corporations can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees for religious reasons.