Republicans present long-awaited Obamacare replacement plan

Washington, March 7 (IANS) US House Republicans on Monday presented their long-awaited plan to replace the Affordable Care Act pushed by former President Barack Obama, a much anticipated move after conservative lawmakers’ repeated promises to do away with the current system, known as Obamacare.

The GOP proposal is included in two bills, which basically aim to create a tax credit system to help people buy health insurance, and it will exempt companies from having to offer alternative coverage to their employees, EFE news reported.

The tax credit will fluctuate between $2,000 and $4,000 per year, would provide less financial help to low-income citizens but would maintain some of the benefits incorporated into Obama’s healthcare reform, such as prohibiting insurers from raising premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.

The presentation of the two bills opens the door for a harsh and complicated debate in Congress, where legislators will discuss dismantling and replacing one of the most complex systems implemented in the US in recent decades.

Republicans hope to do away with basic parts of Obamacare, including the tax credits based on low income, which currently help millions of Americans pay for their health insurance.

Under the Republican plan, tax credits based on salaries would be replaced by credits that would increase with age.

In addition, people who do not acquire health insurance will be punished with a 30 per cent increase in costs for their medical care, a measure to avoid any disincentive to join the new system.

GOP lawmakers have been trying to kill Obamacare since Obama pushed it through in 2010 with the support of both houses of Congress, which at the time had Democratic majorities.

The conservatives argue that the current system doesn’t let citizens choose their healthcare plan from among several options, but rather forces them to conform to the federal offers and companies to comply with the coverage their employees have, EFE news added.

However, under the Obama administration, tens of millions of people who did not have health insurance obtained it thanks to the current system.

The Republican proposal still needs to be reviewed by the non-partisan congressional budget office to evaluate its impact, but on Monday four GOP senators came out against the plan, already knowing its content.

Ohio’s Rob Portman, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski on Monday signed a letter saying that the draft House bill they had examined would not sufficiently protect the citizens of their states.

In the states that they represent, Obamacare has considerably expanded access to Medicaid, the system whereby low-income citizens obtain help in getting medical coverage.

In addition, several ultraconservative senators, including Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, also expressed their reservations about the text presented by their colleagues in the House, and they could — along with their more moderate Republican colleagues — hinder the progress of the new bill in the Senate.

–IANS

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