House Conservatives Balk at Emerging Obamacare Plan

By David Morgan and Susan HeaveyHealth CareReuters

A Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare encountered resistance on Tuesday from party conservatives who said draft legislation emerging in the U.S. House of Representatives would not reduce the cost of healthcare.

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Growing divisions among House Republicans over how to approach the healthcare law could signal new problems for a top party priority just as President Donald Trump prepares to address lawmakers and the public about his 2017 agenda.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had promised legislation on Obamacare after lawmakers returned to Washington this week from a 10-day recess.

On Tuesday, he told reporters that the White House, Senate and House were working on a single plan to repeal and replace the healthcare law known formally as the Affordable Care Act. He insisted there were no rival plans.

"At the end of the day, when we get everything done and right, we're going to be unified on this," Ryan said.

But two prominent members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative bloc of about 40 Republican lawmakers, criticized draft legislation circulating among House members, which was first reported last week by Politico.

The draft plan would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on some employer-sponsored healthcare plans and would provide tax breaks based on age rather than income to help consumers buy insurance.

"It’s a new entitlement program," said Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the Freedom Caucus chairman.

"It raises taxes on the middle class to give subsidies to others who could indeed be millionaires," he added. "It also comes down to a plan that doesn't reduce the cost of healthcare."

Meadows said it would become clear within the next 48 hours whether the proposal has enough support to pass the House as lawmakers review the document.

He said he supported a bill introduced by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

That bill, the Obamacare Replacement Act, would expand the use of health savings accounts to pay for healthcare costs and provide a $5,000 tax credit to those to make contributions.

Another Freedom Caucus member, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said he favored adopting an earlier Obamacare repeal and the replacement bill put forward by Paul and Sanford.

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