House Republicans show long-awaited plan for ACA replacement

The proposal does not detail specific elements, such as the program's cost or how many Americans it could cover.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Updated March 6, 2017 at 7:39 PM
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March 6 (UPI) -- Congressional Republicans on Monday released some details of their long-awaited healthcare package to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

House Republicans made available a rough outline of two bills Monday afternoon. More detailed versions are expected to follow this week.

The 66-page proposal Monday offers a more conservative approach to U.S. healthcare but does not detail specific elements -- such as what the program would cost or how many Americans it could cover. The GOP plan says tax credits will be offered to help pay for insurance, but it will not force people to purchase coverage -- meaning fewer people will likely be covered than were under the ACA.

The new plan will also protect patients with pre-existing conditions and allow adults to remain on their parents' coverage plans until the age of 26.

Changes can and are expected to be made to the legislative package, which must ultimately be approved by Congress and President Donald Trump. Congressional scorekeepers are now going over the legislation, The Washington Post reported, and House committees are expected to vote on the measures sometime this week. A full House vote would follow.

"We have been listening very carefully to our Republican members for months now to make sure we get it right," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said Monday. "I am confident we are going to pass this."

Four Republican senators, though, warned Monday that they won't approve any healthcare plan that leaves large swaths of Americans without coverage -- a key concern also expressed by former Obama administration officials and ACA advocates.

Patients who became eligible for Medicaid through the ACA must also be covered by any replacement package, the senators emphasized. Under the GOP plan, the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid will end in 2020.

The legislators -- Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R. W.Va., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak. -- all represent states that have seen Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

"We will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states," they wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Reform should not come at the cost of disruption in access to health care for our country's most vulnerable and sickest individuals."

The GOP plan would also repeal ACA taxes starting next year, such as the medical device tax and health insurance tax.

To pass any healthcare program through Congress, at least two of the aforementioned four senators would need to support it.

Monday's legislation also outlines individual tax credits and state grants that will be part of the program.

Industry officials, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and former government officials have long been calling for details on a replacement for Obama's signature healthcare law, which was implemented in 2010 and covered more than 24 million people in 2016. Critics have renounced Republicans for initiating the ACA's repeal without having a successor program prepared.

Trump and GOP leaders in Congress have taken substantial criticism in recent weeks and days for their efforts to supplant the Obama law. Some have said top Republicans are only now beginning to realize how difficult replacing the ACA is -- and last week, lawmakers slammed authors of the new legislation and accused them of hiding it from public scrutiny.

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