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GOP makes bid to replace ACA

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WASHINGTON — Three Republican lawmakers have proposed an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that would stop the expansion of Medicaid and reduce subsidies for middle-income people to buy ­insurance.

The plan would give states more power to list “essential health benefits” of insurance. Coverage for maternity care would no longer be mandated.

The proposal was unveiled by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Finance Committee; Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and Sen. Richard Burr of North ­Carolina.

“The American people have found out what is in Obamacare — broken promises in the form of increased health care costs, costly mandates and government bureaucracy,” said Burr. “They don’t like it and don’t want to keep it. Our nation’s health care system was broken before Obamacare, and the president’s health care debacle has only made things worse.”

He said the proposal addresses fundamental cost drivers that the ACA failed to address: “We can lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering individuals and their families to make their own health care decisions, rather than having the federal government make those decisions for them.”

The plan includes a call for employees to be taxed on the value of company-provided health benefits that exceed $12,000 a year for individuals and $30,000 for families. Companies could still take tax deductions for the cost of employee coverage as an incentive to continue providing insurance.

A day before the plan was unveiled, President Obama ridiculed a House vote to repeal the ACA. “I don’t know whether it’s the 55th or the 60th time that they are taking this vote,” he said. “But I’ve asked this question before: Why is it that this would be at the top of their agenda, making sure that folks who don’t have health care aren’t able to get it?”

“It was maybe plausible to be opposed to the Affordable Care Act before it was implemented, but now it is being implemented, and it is working,” said Obama.

“And people are being covered, just as anticipated. The premiums on average are less than $100 when you take into account the tax credit, so it is affordable for the people that it was designed to help. Health care inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years. The overall tab for the Affordable Care Act is costing less than the original projections. In every respect, this is working not just as intended but better than ­intended.”

Nearly 10 million people will have health insurance this year through the public marketplaces that have been created under the ACA, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. Almost 7.5 million have chosen plans or were automatically reenrolled through the federal exchange, she said, and 2.4 million registered through state-run ­exchanges.

Republicans said their plan did not include a federal marketplace, but would let states operate exchanges.

Strong support for repeal of the ACA was expressed this month by the National Retail Federation.

“Dealing with the ACA’s employer mandate and reporting requirements have already brought unwanted cost and complexity to retail employers, despite the serial delays,” commented NRF senior vice president for government relations David French. “Moreover, the numerous unintended consequences of the law have slowed the creation of new retail jobs and limited the hours available to part-time employees.”


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