Trump administration formally backs ObamaCare repeal bill

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The Trump administration on Tuesday formally backed the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, even as some conservatives say they cannot support the bill in its current form.  

In a letter to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called the legislation a good first step toward healthcare reform in a sign that the White House and lawmakers are working to get on the same page. 

“These proposals offer patient-centered solutions that will provide all Americans with access to affordable, quality healthcare, promote innovation and offer peace of mind for those with pre-existing conditions,” Price wrote in the letter. 

Two measures unveiled Monday evening dismantle the core aspects of ObamaCare, including its subsidies to help people buy coverage, its expansion of Medicaid, its taxes and its mandates for people to have insurance.

The bill also restructures the Medicaid program l by capping federal payments. In its place, Republicans would put a new system centered on a tax credit to help people buy insurance. 

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Teas) and Walden touted Price’s letter Tuesday morning as a sign that Republicans are uniting around the healthcare push.

But there are strong rumblings of discontent from conservative Republicans who have dubbed the proposal “ObamaCare lite.” 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said the bill as written  “will not pass.”

“Conservatives are not going to take it. #FullRepeal,” he tweeted.

“The House leadership ObamaCare Lite plan has many problems. We should be stopping mandates, taxes and entitlements, not keeping them.” 

Paul and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have especially taken issue with the plan’s refundable tax credits, which they call a new entitlement program. 

Brady responded Tuesday that Republicans have promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare for seven years, and now us the time to act.

“As Republicans, we have a choice: We can act now, or we can keep fiddling around and squander this opportunity to repeal ObamaCare,” he said. 

Walden added: “We will work with them, but we need them on board to make this happen.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership and a former vote counter, said the bill in its current form might not have the support needed to pass.

“What I don’t like is it may not be a plan that gets a majority votes and let’s us move on,” he said on KMBZ radio Tuesday. 

“Because we can’t stay where we are with the plan we’ve got now.”

“I think the nucleus of the plan is clearly there and the President says it’s negotiable and so do House members,” Blunt said. “So, I’ll be interested to be a part of that negotiation as we work toward a majority in the House and Senate that puts a bill on the President’s desk.”

House committees will move forward with markups of the legislation Wednesday, even though they have not yet received a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

The score will give an idea of how much the law will cost and how many people may lose coverage under the proposal.

Walden downplayed those concerns Tuesday, saying there will be a score before the bills come to the House floor. 

In his letter, Price wrote that the administration hopes to ultimately move forward with other reforms to the healthcare system that that can’t be accomplished through reconciliation.

Price said Trump wants to allow the sale of insurance across state lines, lower the costs for prescription drugs and provide “additional flexibility” to states regarding the Medicaid program. 

“We look forward to working with you throughout the legislative process, making necessary technical and appropriate changes, and ensuring eventual arrival of this important bill on the president’s desk,” Price wrote.

– This story was updated at 12:05 p.m.

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