Conservatives torch new plan as “Obamacare Lite,”
WASHINGTON — A powerful conservative backlash threatened to sink the new Republican health care bill Tuesday less than 24 hours after its launch, even as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders began trying to sell the legislation as the long-promised GOP cure for so-called “Obamacare.”
“We’re going to do something that’s great and I’m proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives,” Trump declared at the White House as he met with the House GOP vote-counting team Tuesday. “We’re going to take action. There’s going to be no slowing down. There’s going to be no waiting and no more excuses by anybody.”
At the Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence told GOP lawmakers this was their chance to scuttle Obama’s law — a Republican goal since its 2010 passage — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forecast congressional approval by early April.
But major obstacles loomed as key Republican lawmakers announced their opposition, and one conservative group after another torched the plan. The Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party Patriots variously derided the new bill as “Obamacare Lite,” “Obamacare 2.0” and even “RyanCare,” in a dig at House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The new GOP plan would repeal the current law’s unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. It also would replace income-based subsidies — which the law provides to help millions of Americans pay premiums — with agebased tax credits that may be skimpier for people with low incomes.
The legislation also would limit future federal funding for Medicaid, which covers low-income people, a group that accounts for about 1 in 5 Americans. And it would loosen rules that former President Barack Obama’s law imposed for health plans directly purchased by individuals.
Republican supporters and opponents are all intent on reducing the role of government in health care, but some House conservatives say the new bill doesn’t go nearly far enough. For example, they are focusing on the system of refundable tax credits they denounce as a costly new entitlement, and they are demanding a vote on a straightforward repeal-only bill.
The concerted conservative opposition was a remarkable rebuke to legislation GOP leaders hope will fulfill seven years of promises to repeal and replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act, pledges that played out in countless Republican campaigns for House and Senate as well as last year’s race for president. Instead, the groups that are uniting to oppose the new House legislation include many that sprang up to oppose passage of Obama’s law in the first place.
“As the bill stands today, it is Obamacare 2.0,” Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “Millions of Americans would never see the improvements in care they were promised, just as Obamacare failed to deliver on its promis.es.”
Republicans are pushing forward without official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office on the cost of the bill and how many people would be covered, although GOP lawmakers acknowledge they can’t hope to match the 20 million covered under Obama’s law.
Democrats say the bill would leave many people uninsured, shifting costs to states and hospital systems that act as providers of last resort. The bill also would cut more than 20 taxes enacted under Obama’s heath law, with the bulk of the savings going to the wealthiest Americans.
“This is a tax cut for the wealthy with some health insurance provisions tacked alongside of it,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Many conservatives are hardly happier.
The new legislation is “not the Obamacare replacement plan, not the Obamacare repeal plan we’ve been hoping for. This is instead a step in the wrong direction,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said at an afternoon news conference with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Caucus members command enough votes to take down the bill in the House.
Four GOP senators — Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — said they would oppose any new plan that would leave millions of Americans uninsured, including expanded Medicaid.