Conservative backlash threatens to sink new Republican health bill


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

A powerful conservative backlash threatened to sink the new Republican health care bill Tuesday less than 24 hours after its launch, even as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders began trying to sell the legislation as the long-promised GOP cure for “Obamacare.”

But major obstacles loomed as key Republican lawmakers announced their opposition, and one conservative group after another torched the plan. The Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, Americans for Prosperity and Tea Party Patriots variously derided the new bill as Obamacare Lite, Obamacare 2.0 and even RyanCare, in a dig at House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The new GOP plan would repeal the current law’s unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. It also would replace income-based subsidies, which the law provides to help millions of Americans pay premiums, with age-based tax credits that may be skimpier for people with low incomes. Those payments would phase out for higher-earning people.

The legislation also would limit future federal funding for Medicaid, which covers low-income people, about 1 in 5 Americans. And it would loosen rules that Obama’s law imposed for health plans directly purchased by individuals.

Republican supporters and opponents are all intent on reducing the role of government in health care, but some House conservatives say the new bill doesn’t go nearly far enough.

For example, they are focusing on the system of refundable tax credits they denounce as a costly new entitlement. They’re demanding a vote on a straightforward repeal-only bill.

The concerted conservative opposition was a remarkable rebuke to legislation GOP leaders hope will fulfill seven years of promises to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, pledges that played out in countless Republican campaigns for House and Senate as well as last year’s race for president. Instead, the groups that are uniting to oppose the new House legislation include many that sprang up to oppose passage of “Obamacare” in the first place.

“As the bill stands today, it is Obamacare 2.0,” the billionaire Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “Millions of Americans would never see the improvements in care they were promised, just as Obamacare failed to deliver on its promises.”

Democrats say the bill would leave many people uninsured, shifting costs to states and hospital systems that act as providers of last resort. The bill also adds up to big tax cuts for the rich, cutting more than 20 taxes enacted under Obama’s heath law with the bulk of the savings going to the wealthiest Americans.

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