Washington, Jun 22 (EFE).- Republican leaders in the United States Senate unveiled a plan Thursday to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The overhaul, among other things, would repeal a 3.8 percent investment income tax that only applies to high earners, end a penalty on people who do not buy insurance and phase out funding for the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid – the US government’s health-care program for the poor
The plan, however, would maintain Obamacare’s system of tax credits for purchasing insurance.
The 142-page draft bill, hammered out in secret by a group of 13 GOP senators headed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was published Thursday on the US Senate Committee of the Budget’s Web site.
The bill, however, faces a tough road to passage even though McConnell has decided to use a process that would allow it to be approved with just a simple majority.
With Democrats uniformly opposed to overhauling the ACA, enacted in 2010 during then-President Barack Obama’s administration, the bill would need the backing of 50 of the Senate’s 52 Republicans. President Donald Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, could then cast the final tie-breaking vote.
But at least four Republican senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, have said that the Senate plan does not go far enough in repealing the ACA and that they would not support it in its current form.
The Senate proposal makes only modest adjustments to an Obamacare overhaul passed by the House of Representatives in May.
Under the Senate Republicans’ plan, the expansion of federal funding for Medicaid that has occurred under the ACA would be phased out over a longer period (from 2021 to 2024). A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia thus far have taken advantage of that additional funding for their poor residents.
It also would eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that people either buy insurance or pay a penalty, the so-called individual mandate aimed at achieving a balanced risk pool of both healthy and sick people.
Although it does not undo the current law’s tax credits for people who do not receive health insurance through their employer, those subsidies are less generous and less costly for the federal government. They would, however, be income-based, while the House plan tied the tax credits to the age of the recipient.
Trump, who has criticized rising Obamacare premiums and deductibles, said Thursday during a White House meeting with technology industry leaders that negotiations would be required but predicted that the Senate bill would succeed.
The president celebrated the passage of the House’s Obamacare replacement bill during a ceremony at the White House but last week told Republican senators that that measure was “mean” and that they needed to come up with a more generous plan.
Democratic leaders in Congress, for their part slammed the Senate leadership’s proposal, calling it cruel and heartless and predicting that it would cause millions of people to lose their health insurance.
Obamacare’s defenders say the health law allowed 20 million previously uninsured people to obtain coverage, many of them through an expansion of Medicaid. Critics say the real number is lower.
The Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance by 2026, is expected to weigh in on the Senate’s proposal early next week.