Republicans in the US Congress have unveiled long-awaited legislation to dismantle the signature health care law introduced by former US President, Barack Obama.
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The Affordable Care Act – or “Obamacare” as it known – was passed in 2010.
Republicans have long vowed to repeal and replace the legislation. However, they have failed to agree on an alternative.
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The legislation, dubbed The American Health Care Act, would abolish the individual, income-based subsidies for purchasing insurance under Obamacare.
It protects two of the most popular provisions of Obamacare:
- It would prohibit insurers from denying coverage or charging more to those with pre-existing conditions
- It would allow adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans
The proposed law would also provide states with $100 billion to create programmes for patient populations, possibly including high-risk pools to provide insurance to the sickest patients.
Critics complained about the penalty the law charged those who refused to buy insurance. The Republican proposal would repeal that penalty immediately.
Around half of those eligible for Obamacare gained coverage through an expansion of the Medicaid programme for the poor.
The Republican proposal would end the Medicaid expansion on January 1, 2020 and cap Medicaid funding after that date.
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What the Republicans say
They have condemned Obamacare as government overreach. President Donald Trump has called it a “disaster”.
They have long called for ending health insurance mandates and rolling back extra healthcare funding for the poor.
“Today marks an important step toward restoring healthcare choices and affordability back to the American people,” the White House said in a statement.
Just before the plan was unveiled, four moderate Senate Republicans jointly expressed concern that an earlier draft would not give adequate protection to those given coverage under the Medicaid system.
This raised doubts about the legislation’s journey through the upper chamber.
Several Senate and House conservatives have already expressed doubt about the decision to offer tax credits for the purchase of health insurance.
The proposal is aimed at encouraging people to buy insurance with the age-based credits, which would be capped at upper-income levels.
What the Democrats say
The proposed plan has drawn immediate fire from Democrats.
Congressional Democrats denounced it, saying it will hurt Americans by requiring them to pay more for healthcare, to the benefit of insurers.
What will happen now?
The fate of the Obamacare plan remains uncertain, even with Republican majorities in both chambers.
Neither is it clear where President Trump stands on many of the details.
Has Obamacare been a success?
It is popular in many states, even some controlled by Republicans. It has brought health insurance coverage to around 20 million previously uninsured Americans.
Some have been angered by increases in premiums.