Se­nate ap­proves Oba­macare re­peal process

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - World News - — Reuters.

WASH­ING­TON. — The US Se­nate yes­ter­day took a first con­crete step to­ward dis­man­tling Oba­macare, vot­ing to in­struct key com­mit­tees to draft leg­is­la­tion re­peal­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health in­sur­ance pro­gram.

The vote was 51-48. The res­o­lu­tion now goes to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which is ex­pected to vote on it this week. Scrap­ping Oba­macare is a top pri­or­ity for the Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in both cham­bers and Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Repub­li­cans have said that the process of re­peal­ing Oba­macare could take months, and de­vel­op­ing a re­place­ment plan could take longer. But they are un­der pres­sure from Trump to act fast; he said on Wed­nes­day that the re­peal and re­place­ment should hap­pen “es­sen­tially si­mul­ta­ne­ously.”

Some 20 mil­lion pre­vi­ously unin­sured Amer­i­cans gained health cov­er­age through the Af­ford­able Care Act, as Oba­macare is of­fi­cially called. Cov­er­age was ex­tended by ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid and through on­line ex­changes where con­sumers can re­ceive in­come-based sub­si­dies.

Repub­li­cans have launched re­peated le­gal and leg­isla­tive ef­forts to un­ravel the law, crit­i­cis­ing it as govern­ment over­reach. They say they want to re­place it by giv­ing states, not the fed­eral govern­ment, more con­trol.

But in re­cent days some Repub­li­cans have ex­pressed con­cern about the party’s cur­rent strat­egy of vot­ing for a re­peal with­out hav­ing a con­sen­sus re­place­ment plan ready.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week he wants to pack as many re­place­ment pro­vi­sions as pos­si­ble into the leg­is­la­tion re­peal­ing Oba­macare. But Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Or­rin Hatch, also a Repub­li­can, said this could be dif­fi­cult un­der Se­nate rules.

The res­o­lu­tion ap­proved yes­ter­day in­structs com­mit­tees of the House and Se­nate to draft re­peal leg­is­la­tion by a tar­get date of Jan­uary 27. Both cham­bers will then need to ap­prove the re­sult­ing leg­is­la­tion be­fore any re­peal goes into ef­fect.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans are us­ing spe­cial bud­get pro­ce­dures that al­low them to re­peal Oba­macare by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity; this way they don’t need Demo­cratic votes. Repub­li­cans have a ma­jor­ity of 52 votes in the 100-seat Se­nate; one Repub­li­can, Sen­a­tor Rand Paul, voted no yes­ter­day.

Democrats mocked the Repub­li­can ef­fort, say­ing Repub­li­cans have never united around an al­ter­na­tive to Oba­macare. “They want to kill ACA but they have no idea how they are go­ing to bring forth a sub­sti­tute pro­posal,” de­clared Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont.

Trump said on Wed­nes­day he would sub­mit a re­place­ment plan as soon as his nom­i­nee to lead the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices depart­ment, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tom Price, is ap­proved by the Se­nate. But Trump gave no de­tails.

Democrats passed the Af­ford­able Care Act in 2010 over united Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion. Democrats say the act is in­sur­ing more Amer­i­cans and help­ing to slow the growth in health­care spend­ing.

But Repub­li­cans say the sys­tem is not work­ing. The av­er­age Oba­macare pre­mium is set to rise 25 per­cent in 2017.

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