Sen. Bernie Sanders Condemns AHCA As “Cruel” In Scathing Statement

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In a statement released shortly after legislation aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare narrowly passed in the House on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders called Republicans' American Health Care Act "cruel" and "an absolute disaster." The amended version of House Republicans' AHCA passed by a vote of 217 to 213, garnering widespread criticism from Congressional Democrats.

"The bill that Republicans passed today is an absolute disaster," Sanders said in a statement released Thursday. "It really has nothing to do with health care." Sanders went on to characterize the AHCA as a "cruel bill" that would result in "millions of people" being thrown off their health insurance.

The Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful argued that House Republicans' AHCA had more to do with shifting the wealth of working people to the country's wealthy elite. "This bill would throw 24 million Americans off of health insurance – including thousands of Vermonters – cut Medicaid by $880 billion, defund Planned Parenthood and substantially increase premiums on older Americans," Sanders said. "Meanwhile, it would provide a $300 billion tax break to the top 2 percent and hundreds of billions more to the big drug and insurance companies that are ripping off the American people."

Prior to Thursday's House vote Sanders had been a vocal critic of the AHCA, which along with repealing key components of former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, enables states to remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Under the AHCA, states could opt to waive rules banning health insurance providers from using pre-existing conditions to raise premiums or deny coverage. The bill also redefines pre-existing conditions to include domestic violence, sexual assault, postpartum depression, and cesarean sections.

Because senior House Republicans pushed the AHCA to a vote before the Congressional Budget Office could complete an analysis of the bill, it's unclear how many people might lose their coverage under the plan. However, the CBO's review of House Republicans' initial AHCA draft estimated that 24 million people would be left uninsured over the course of the next 10 years. "How can you call something 'health care reform' when millions of people lose their health insurance?" Sanders had previously said in criticism of the bill.

The AHCA now heads to the Senate for a vote, where it would reportedly take only a few defecting Republicans to sink the bill.

"Our job now is to rally millions of Americans against this cruel bill to make sure that it does not pass the Senate," Sanders said in a statement Thursday. "We must guarantee health care as a right to every American."