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Saving Obamacare: the US president pleads for his legacy

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Saving Obamacare: the US president pleads for his legacy

US President Barack Obama has urged fellow Democrats to preserve his legacy-defining healthcare law.

Republicans have launched their long-desired bid to scrap it in what Vice President-elect Mike Pence has called “the first order of business” of Donald Trump’s administration.

The process

The Senate has opened a debate on a resolution setting in motion the Republican drive to repeal the Democratic-backed 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare”.

This has helped more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans obtain medical insurance.

What Obama is saying

He has gone to Capitol Hill to urge Democratic lawmakers to protect the measure.

Obamacare is considered his signature domestic policy achievement.

He hands the presidency over on January the 20th.

Obama “encouraged us to fight” Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings told reporters after the meeting with the president.

The Democrats have accused the Republicans of trying to rip the nation’s healthcare system apart, with no firm plan to replace it.

“The Republican plan to cut our healthcare would not make America great again,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, quoting Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.

“It would make America sick again and lead to chaos instead of affordable care.”

What the Republicans are saying

The Republicans, who will control both chambers of Congress and the White House when Donald Trump takes office, have stepped up their rhetorical attack on Obamacare.

They say it is a government overreach.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met Republican lawmakers to plot the path forward on scuttling the law.

Afterwards, they stepped up their rhetorical attack on the initiative.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the law ruined the US healthcare system.

“The first order of business is to keep our promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the kind of healthcare reform that will lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government,” Pence said.

Have the Republicans come up with an alternative?

Not yet.

Pence and Ryan offered few details on what a Republican-backed replacement for Obamacare would look like.

However, Ryan said lawmakers will take action that does not “pull the rug out from anybody.”

Tell me more about Obamacare

The initiative helped people obtain insurance by expanding eligibility to the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor.

It provided government subsidies to help people obtain coverage from private insurers through government-run exchanges.

What has Donald Trump said?

The US President-elect has vowed to protect some popular parts of Obamacare, for example barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

However, he wants to replace it with a system that is “much better and less expensive.”

The American Medical Association

The doctor’s group is calling for caution in making changes to Obamacare, which it supported.

“In considering opportunities to make coverage more affordable and accessible to all Americans, it is essential that gains in the number of Americans with health insurance coverage be maintained,” the AMA said in a letter to congressional leaders.

The organisation said policymakers should provide details of what will replace the system before any action is taken.

“Patients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decision about whether it represents a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform,” the group said.

Everything you need to know about Obamacare in under a minute