House Takes Major Step in the Repealing of Obamacare

The House of Representatives took a major first step in repealing Obamacare, voting 227 to 198 on a resolution package that lays the framework for rolling back the health care law.

“We’re moving forward with a yes today, because … nearly every Republican ever who has arrived here since 2010 since this horrible piece of legislation was passed, made a promise to the American people that at first opportunity … [he or she would] repeal this damaging law,” Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

>>> Meet the Next Chairman of the Republican Study Committee

This legislation allows the House to begin laying the groundwork to repeal the health care law passed in 2010.

“The resolution is the first step towards getting to a Obamacare repeal,” Rachel Bovard, director of policy services at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “The repeal will be done. To get to that point, you first have to pass a budget resolution.”

The budget resolution sets a blueprint for what committees in Congress will be able to spend for the upcoming fiscal year.

Early Thursday morning, the Senate passed the budget resolution 51-48, which initiated the process of repealing Obamacare using reconciliation.

>>> What You Need to Know About the Process Republicans Are Using to Repeal Obamacare

Both resolutions are chamber-specific, which necessitates the fact that both chambers must pass a resolution before approaching the reconciliation process.

“Both chambers move on their own budgets, and their own reconciliation bills,” Bovard said in an email to The Daily Signal.

According to Bovard, reconciliation attempts will likely begin in the House and then move to the Senate. “Once both chambers pass reconciliation, it then goes to the president to sign into law,” Bovard said.

Reconciliation is a tool that can be used for budgetary bills that affect taxes, spending, and the deficit. It is useful for the repealing laws because it is protected from Senate filibuster and only a simple majority, 51 votes, is needed for it to pass.

The reconciliation process was also used by Democrats to pass parts of Obamacare and modify entitlement programs including Medicare and Medicaid.

Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that the resolution is an essential step in repealing Obamacare.

“Nothing happens quickly in Congress, but this is an essential first step in the effort to repeal Obamacare,” Holler said. “There will be many important policy questions as this process moves forward, but this budget resolution represents the only mechanism to expedite the Obamacare repeal process.”

President-elect Donald Trump reaffirmed his support for repealing Obamacare early Friday morning.

Various other lawmakers shared their support in Congress taking this first step in repealing Obamacare.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voiced her opposition in the passing of the resolution.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., applauded the House’s efforts to take measures to repeal Obamacare.

“This is a critical first step toward delivering relief to Americans who are struggling under this law,” Ryan said on the House floor Friday.

Walker, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said Republicans are serious about replacing Obamacare with a substantive health care solution. He noted that the Republican Study Committee unveiled its replacement plan, the ‘American Health Care Reform Act of 2017, last week to do just that.

Walker said that the bill’s “primary purpose was to push back on the narrative that Republicans sit on their hands for six years and did nothing while the American people suffered under the worst piece of legislation … in the United States congressional history.”

The post House Takes Major Step in the Repealing of Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

What Happens for Consumers If Congress Repeals Obamacare

All the talk about congressional Republicans preparing to repeal Obamacare may have some Americans on edge, but GOP lawmakers say they intend to craft a plan that will phase out the health care law to ensure a “stable transition” for consumers who depend on it.

Republicans say they want consumers to keep their health coverage, and continue receiving any subsidies, until Congress can pass a replacement that may not kick in until 2019.

In the days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president Jan. 20, Republicans are continuing to debate the substance of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Details are sparse, but conservative senators are urging Senate leaders to use legislation from 2015 as a floor, or minimum, for what should be done this year.

That bill phased out parts of Obamacare over two years, repealed the health care law’s individual and employer mandates and did away with fines for not complying. It also eliminated the law’s Medicaid expansion, medical device tax, and Cadillac tax on high-cost plans.

Congressional committees have started work on a repeal bill. But already Obama, Democrat lawmakers, and other supporters of the health care law warn that 20 million Americans they say gained coverage under Obamacare—a figure that is disputed as inflated—are in jeopardy of losing that coverage.

Though Republicans plan to send a bill repealing Obamacare to Trump in the next few weeks, GOP lawmakers are considering delaying implementation of the repeal for two years to protect those who gained coverage under Obamacare.

“The repeal legislation will include a stable transition period as we work toward patient-centered health care,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday in a speech mapping out Republicans’ path for repeal.

A two-year transition before Obamacare’s official repeal takes effect would give Congress time to pass and implement a replacement plan. The goal is to ensure that those who obtained health coverage under the law—and received tax credits—would continue to until the replacement for Obamacare is implemented.

“There’s more of an understanding that if you just throw 20 to 30 million [insured Americans] out on the street, that’s not politically wise and, as far as I’m concerned, immoral,” Timothy Jost, professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law and a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, told The Daily Signal.

“How do you deal with that?” Jost said. “I think the idea is you repeal it and put it off for some period of time and adopt and implement a replacement plan.”

Many proposals introduced by Republican members of the House and Senate, including House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, include tax credits to provide financial assistance to consumers who purchase coverage in the individual market.

“We want to have tax credits that give everybody a shot at buying, take their tax credit and go buy a health plan of their choosing,” Ryan said Thursday during a town hall hosted by CNN.

Republicans “generally are not talking about” ending all subsidies, Jost said. But since they haven’t yet introduced a replacement for the health care law, he said, it isn’t clear whether tax credits will be based on a consumer’s age or income.

Republicans may agree it will take time to eliminate Obamacare without imperiling Americans’ insurance status, but GOP lawmakers remain split over aspects of the repeal legislation itself.

Some Republican senators, for example, would like to see a repeal of Obamacare’s taxes delayed for several months, while others say the taxes should be rolled back immediately after Trump signs the repeal bill into law.

The 2015 reconciliation bill, which members of the last Congress said plotted the steps for successfully dismantling Obamacare, repealed all of the law’s taxes immediately. Obama vetoed that bill.

Alyene Senger, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, advocates following the model set by the 2015 legislation and repealing the taxes immediately. Included are taxes on prescription drugs and health insurers, as well as higher restrictions and penalties placed on health savings accounts.

Other Republican lawmakers want to see GOP leaders produce a replacement plan before they vote to repeal Obamacare.

At first, House conservatives advocated a repeal-first, replace-later strategy. Now, though, they’re backing a plan to replace the law soon after voting to repeal it.

Congress took a major step toward repealing Obamacare this week after members passed a budget resolution for fiscal 2017. The resolution instructs committees in the House and Senate to begin writing the bill to repeal the law using reconciliation.

After the November election, Republican lawmakers said they planned to have a bill repealing Obamacare on Trump’s desk not long after his inauguration Jan. 20.

But Trump has begun to set his own expectations for Congress.

At his first press conference since the election, the president-elect mapped out a timeline for Obamacare’s repeal and replacement that centers around Senate confirmation of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re going to be submitting as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously, [or] shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said. “It will be repeal and replace.”

The Senate Finance Committee, which has primary jurisdiction, hasn’t scheduled a confirmation hearing for Price.

The Georgia Republican will appear at a courtesy hearing Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of that panel, said earlier this week he doesn’t expect Price to be confirmed until mid-February.

Under Trump’s timeline, that would delay repeal of Obamacare until at least then.

But GOP leaders in Congress hope to move faster.

Ryan said Thursday that congressional Republicans are “moving as quickly as they can” to repeal and replace the health care law. But, Ryan admitted, it will take “a little bit of time.”

“The law is collapsing,” Ryan said, “and so we’ve got to rescue people from the collapsing of this law and fix this problem.”

The post What Happens for Consumers If Congress Repeals Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

What Happens for Consumers If Congress Repeals Obamacare

All the talk about congressional Republicans preparing to repeal Obamacare may have some Americans on edge, but GOP lawmakers say they intend to craft a plan that will phase out the health care law to ensure a “stable transition” for consumers who depend on it.

Republicans say they want consumers to keep their health coverage, and continue receiving any subsidies, until Congress can pass a replacement that may not kick in until 2019.

In the days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president Jan. 20, Republicans are continuing to debate the substance of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Details are sparse, but conservative senators are urging Senate leaders to use legislation from 2015 as a floor, or minimum, for what should be done this year.

That bill phased out parts of Obamacare over two years, repealed the health care law’s individual and employer mandates and did away with fines for not complying. It also eliminated the law’s Medicaid expansion, medical device tax, and Cadillac tax on high-cost plans.

Congressional committees have started work on a repeal bill. But already Obama, Democrat lawmakers, and other supporters of the health care law warn that 20 million Americans they say gained coverage under Obamacare—a figure that is disputed as inflated—are in jeopardy of losing that coverage.

Though Republicans plan to send a bill repealing Obamacare to Trump in the next few weeks, GOP lawmakers are considering delaying implementation of the repeal for two years to protect those who gained coverage under Obamacare.

“The repeal legislation will include a stable transition period as we work toward patient-centered health care,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday in a speech mapping out Republicans’ path for repeal.

A two-year transition before Obamacare’s official repeal takes effect would give Congress time to pass and implement a replacement plan. The goal is to ensure that those who obtained health coverage under the law—and received tax credits—would continue to until the replacement for Obamacare is implemented.

“There’s more of an understanding that if you just throw 20 to 30 million [insured Americans] out on the street, that’s not politically wise and, as far as I’m concerned, immoral,” Timothy Jost, professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law and a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, told The Daily Signal.

“How do you deal with that?” Jost said. “I think the idea is you repeal it and put it off for some period of time and adopt and implement a replacement plan.”

Many proposals introduced by Republican members of the House and Senate, including House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, include tax credits to provide financial assistance to consumers who purchase coverage in the individual market.

“We want to have tax credits that give everybody a shot at buying, take their tax credit and go buy a health plan of their choosing,” Ryan said Thursday during a town hall hosted by CNN.

Republicans “generally are not talking about” ending all subsidies, Jost said. But since they haven’t yet introduced a replacement for the health care law, he said, it isn’t clear whether tax credits will be based on a consumer’s age or income.

Republicans may agree it will take time to eliminate Obamacare without imperiling Americans’ insurance status, but GOP lawmakers remain split over aspects of the repeal legislation itself.

Some Republican senators, for example, would like to see a repeal of Obamacare’s taxes delayed for several months, while others say the taxes should be rolled back immediately after Trump signs the repeal bill into law.

The 2015 reconciliation bill, which members of the last Congress said plotted the steps for successfully dismantling Obamacare, repealed all of the law’s taxes immediately. Obama vetoed that bill.

Alyene Senger, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, advocates following the model set by the 2015 legislation and repealing the taxes immediately. Included are taxes on prescription drugs and health insurers, as well as higher restrictions and penalties placed on health savings accounts.

Other Republican lawmakers want to see GOP leaders produce a replacement plan before they vote to repeal Obamacare.

At first, House conservatives advocated a repeal-first, replace-later strategy. Now, though, they’re backing a plan to replace the law soon after voting to repeal it.

Congress took a major step toward repealing Obamacare this week after members passed a budget resolution for fiscal 2017. The resolution instructs committees in the House and Senate to begin writing the bill to repeal the law using reconciliation.

After the November election, Republican lawmakers said they planned to have a bill repealing Obamacare on Trump’s desk not long after his inauguration Jan. 20.

But Trump has begun to set his own expectations for Congress.

At his first press conference since the election, the president-elect mapped out a timeline for Obamacare’s repeal and replacement that centers around Senate confirmation of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re going to be submitting as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously, [or] shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said. “It will be repeal and replace.”

The Senate Finance Committee, which has primary jurisdiction, hasn’t scheduled a confirmation hearing for Price.

The Georgia Republican will appear at a courtesy hearing Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of that panel, said earlier this week he doesn’t expect Price to be confirmed until mid-February.

Under Trump’s timeline, that would delay repeal of Obamacare until at least then.

But GOP leaders in Congress hope to move faster.

Ryan said Thursday that congressional Republicans are “moving as quickly as they can” to repeal and replace the health care law. But, Ryan admitted, it will take “a little bit of time.”

“The law is collapsing,” Ryan said, “and so we’ve got to rescue people from the collapsing of this law and fix this problem.”

The post What Happens for Consumers If Congress Repeals Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

What You Need to Know About the Process Republicans Are Using to Repeal Obamacare

There’s a lot of talk about the procedure Republicans are using to dismantle Obamacare, but what exactly is reconciliation and how does it work?

Reconciliation is a budget tool used for legislation that changes taxes, spending, or the deficit. The procedure is especially powerful in the Senate, since a reconciliation bill only needs 51 votes to pass.

This year, GOP lawmakers are taking a crack at repealing the health care law through reconciliation, and the Senate took the first major step toward dismantling the law Thursday.

After a lengthy voting session, the upper chamber passed a budget resolution for 2017 that instructs four congressional committees to start writing the repeal bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised his Senate colleagues for taking “an important step” toward repealing Obamacare.

“The American people have called on Congress to act and finally bring relief from Obamacare,” McConnell said in a statement after the Senate passed the budget resolution. “I am pleased that the Senate took this critical step towards keeping that commitment tonight, and I look forward to our House colleagues passing it soon.”

The House is expected to vote on the budget resolution Friday.

Once both chambers have passed the fiscal blueprint, the committees that oversee the Affordable Care Act can begin working on the actual bill that will repeal Obamacare.

They have until Jan. 27—just one week after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration—to complete the legislation.

The post What You Need to Know About the Process Republicans Are Using to Repeal Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Repealing Obamacare Is Just the Start: How to Fix American Health Care, Part 1

Obamacare, the left’s grand attempt to create a national government-run health care system, has failed.

They promised lower health insurance premiums, but delivered higher ones. They promised more choice and competition, but delivered less. They promised continuity and better access to care, but delivered disruption and dislocation.

Despite promises that people could keep their plans and doctors, thousands of Americans were forced into more expensive insurance with higher deductibles and plans that didn’t include their doctors.

After spending billions in tax dollars, Obamacare managed to increase the number of people with health insurance by much less than predicted—with over 80 percent of even that increase the result of simply enrolling more people in Medicaid. So far, the net growth in private health insurance has been only about 3 million people—or less than 1 percent of the population.

In the meantime, Republicans won—first the House, then the Senate, and finally the presidency—by campaigning to repeal Obamacare.

Now, those who created the mess have the audacity to insist that Republicans not repeal Obamacare until they first put in place a new comprehensive, national design for America’s health care system. Unfortunately, some Republicans seem to be listening to them.

Yet those demands reveal a fundamental ignorance of how to achieve more choices, higher quality, and lower costs for any product or service.

Perhaps they should take a look at the history books.

By the end of the 1970s, Japan, once known for its cheap trinkets and poor product quality, was overtaking the U.S. automobile and manufacturing industries in terms of quality, efficiency, and costs. That was largely due to the business practices revolution led by Edward Deming, an American management consultant who went to Japan after World War II to rebuild its infrastructure.

Deming’s message was that companies could become successful by prioritizing quality above quotas, and bottom-up observations about efficiency from the factory floor in place of top-down edicts from the boardroom. Japanese corporations listened, improved, and grew.

W. Edward Deming, leading advisor to Japanese auto makers. (Photo: Dennis Brack bb 29/Newscom)

W. Edward Deming, leading adviser to Japanese automakers. (Photo: Dennis Brack bb 29/Newscom)

In contrast, manufacturers in the U.S.—even during the “golden age” of American assembly-line production—were not keen to listen to their customers’ complaints, nor to their workers’ ideas for improving quality and lowering costs.

It was not until the 1980s—when they were clearly losing out to Toyota and Honda—that companies like Ford finally reached out to Deming to learn the same lessons and instigate their own “quality revolution.”

This tale of two countries offers an important lesson for lawmakers in how to best reform the massive government programs that attempt to centrally manage services like health care and education for over 300 million Americans.

The private sector quality revolution happened when businesses pushed decision-making down to the shop floor and challenged workers to continuously improve how products were produced. Workers quickly began to make changes that would save seconds and pennies. Step by step, those seconds and pennies turned into minutes and dollars, and then into days and millions of dollars.

Once managers understood that quality improvement and costs reduction must be achieved incrementally, at the lowest levels of decision-making, the United States again became a beacon of manufacturing quality and efficiency.

Just like the American companies that lost market share when they refused to innovate, establishment politicians have lost elections because they ignored the outrage of Americans over the high costs and low quality of big government services.

The answer is not to replace one top-down centralized plan with a different top-down centralized plan. Rather, the solution lies in clearing out the web of government regulations and subsidies that shield the status quo from the kind of bottom-up innovation that produces better quality at lower cost.

It’s important to remember that the health care system was already over-regulated, inefficient, and needlessly expensive before Obamacare made all of those problems worse.

Consequently, repealing Obamacare is just the starting point, and clearing away the obstacles to innovative, bottom-up health reform will be a longer-term process, not a one-time event.

Tomorrow, in part two, we’ll explore what health care should look like in a world without Obamacare.

The post Repealing Obamacare Is Just the Start: How to Fix American Health Care, Part 1 appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Obamacare Repeal Moves Forward as Centrist GOP Senators Abandon Plan to Delay It

A group of Republican senators looking to delay the bill repealing Obamacare withdrew their request to do so Wednesday night, a significant move that brings Congress one step closer to dismantling the health care law.

Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska,  Susan Collins of Maine, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced an amendment to the budget resolution Monday pushing back the deadline for House and Senate Committees to craft the reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare to March 3.

The original target date for the committees was Jan. 27.

But during a marathon voting session—called vote-a-rama—that began Wednesday evening and extended into early Thursday morning, Portman and Corker withdrew the amendment.

“We plan to withdraw this amendment and place our faith in the fact that we’re going to do this in a manner that works well for the American people,” Corker said.

At the end of the voting session, the Senate passed the budget resolution 51-48, which begins the process of repealing Obamacare using reconciliation.

Both President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence praised the Senate for taking the first steps to roll back the health care law.

The budget resolution instructs the committees with jurisdiction over Obamacare—two in the House and two in the Senate—to begin writing the reconciliation bill that will dismantle the health care law.

Reconciliation is a budget tool that fast-tracks legislation in the Senate.

The House is expected to vote on the budget resolution Friday.

With the Jan. 27 reporting deadline remaining, the pressure is on the Senate to move the reconciliation bill quickly once it passes the House, which is expected to vote on the legislation first.

Congressional Republicans attempted to repeal Obamacare using reconciliation in 2015, when they sent a bill to President Barack Obama’s desk that repealed major provisions of his signature health care law.

The president vetoed the bill.

GOP lawmakers are expected to use the 2015 reconciliation package as a floor for the legislation crafted by committees in the House and the Senate. That reconciliation bill repealed the individual and employer mandates, Medicaid expansion, and medical device and Cadillac taxes.

Though congressional Republicans, including leadership, support repealing Obamacare through reconciliation, some members expressed concern over dismantling the health care law without having a replacement plan ready.

Corker and Portman said they hoped extending the deadline for the committees would give them more time to draft a plan that has broad GOP support and ease the worries of the Americans who gained coverage under Obamacare.

But Corker said he decided to withdraw the amendment after Republican leadership told him the Jan. 27 deadline outlined in the budget resolution was a “placeholder,” according to Politico.

>>> The Obamacare Taxes Dividing Republicans

The post Obamacare Repeal Moves Forward as Centrist GOP Senators Abandon Plan to Delay It appeared first on The Daily Signal.

How Many Americans Paid the Obamacare Tax Penalty in 2016

About 6.5 million Americans paid an average penalty of $470 for not having health insurance in 2015 — 20 percent fewer than the year before, according to data released Tuesday by the IRS.

The IRS collected $3 billion, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a letter to members of Congress.

The individual mandate is the most unpopular part of Obamacare, surveys show, and both Republican congressional leaders and the incoming Trump administration have pledged to repeal it.

If they don’t, the 2017 penalty for adults will be the same as in 2016 — $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher. In 2015, the penalty was $325 or 2.5 percent of income.

About 85 percent of 2015 tax returns processed so far indicated taxpayers had qualifying health coverage all year, up from 81 percent for 2014, which the IRS reported last January.

Almost 13 million taxpayers claimed one or more health care coverage exemptions.

About three-quarters of the taxpayers who reported owing the tax payment also said they were due a refund, the IRS said.

The agency cautioned that some data from 2015 is still being reviewed and its findings disclosed Tuesday were preliminary.

This article was originally published by the Kaiser Health Network.

The post How Many Americans Paid the Obamacare Tax Penalty in 2016 appeared first on The Daily Signal.

As Congress Plots Repeal, Former Pennsylvania Democrat Faces $784 in Monthly Premiums Under Obamacare

Before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, he promised Americans they would have quality, affordable health care, and would be able to keep their same health insurance plans and doctors.

But in the three years since Obamacare’s exchanges opened for business, Ross Schriftman, 64, said none of those promises have come to fruition for him.

Before the health care law was implemented, Schriftman was paying $218 per month for coverage from Independence Blue Cross with a $5,000 deductible. In 1974, long before the Obamacare seed was planted, Schriftman recalled paying just $12 per month for his very first health insurance plan.

This year, though, Schriftman’s policy with Independence Blue Cross is costing him $784 per month with a $6,500 deductible. Schriftman, an insurance agent, doesn’t qualify for a subsidy.

Before the health care law was implemented and into Obamacare’s first years of existence, Schriftman, a former Democrat, deposited money throughout the year into his health savings account, or a medical savings account.

But now that his premiums have increased so substantially, the health insurance agent said he can no longer afford to put away the extra money.

And before the implementation of the health care law, Schriftman, like millions of other Americans, was told he would be able to keep his plan once Obamacare took effect.

But, also like millions of other Americans, his original $218-per-month policy with Independence Blue Cross was canceled.

Schriftman picked a new plan through Aetna, but history repeated itself, and the insurer canceled his plan.

Ross Schriftman (Photo: Ross Schriftman)

Ross Schriftman (Photo: Ross Schriftman)

“Talk about choice,” he told The Daily Signal. “Talk about losing.”

Now, Schriftman is back where he was before Obamacare’s implementation, with a policy from Independence Blue Cross.

This time, though, some things are different.

“I’m paying higher premiums. I’m paying higher taxes, and I have worse coverage,” he said.

In a statement to The Daily Signal, Paula Sunshine, chief marketing officer for Independence Blue Cross, said the insurer is working with consumers to “find the benefits that are right for them and the care they need,” but said the company also needs to “ensure a sustainable market.”

“Our rates reflect the changing market trends impacting insurers here and across the country,” Sunshine said.

Taking Action

Like so many Americans on both sides of the debate over Obamacare, Schriftman is watching the Republican-led Congress closely as they work on a plan to repeal and replace the health care law.

Since Obama signed Obamacare into law in 2010, GOP lawmakers have been talking about repealing it, and have voted to do so more than 60 times.

But with Obama in the White House, their efforts were unsuccessful.

That changed Nov. 8, when voters elected Republican businessman Donald Trump to the White House, and the GOP retained control of both the House and the Senate.

Trump, along with many Republicans on the ballot, campaigned on repealing Obamacare.

This year, they’ll finally have their shot.

GOP lawmakers have agreed to roll back much of the health care law using reconciliation, a budget tool that is especially powerful in the Senate.

There, reconciliation bills need just 51 votes to pass, and Republicans hold 52 seats in the upper chamber.

But while the GOP has come to an agreement on how to repeal Obamacare, the party is split over when to vote on its replacement—and hasn’t yet agreed on a replacement—and whether to get rid of Obamacare’s taxes immediately.

Democrats and the White House, meanwhile, are warning that repealing the law would cause 20 million Americans who gained health insurance under Obamacare to lose coverage.

And it’s a concern that has some Republicans rethinking whether repeal first, replace later is a viable strategy.

“I think it’s important that we move sooner on a replacement than later,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told The Daily Signal, “just to alleviate some of the concerns of those that may be fearful of losing their health insurance.”

Meadows said he would like to see the House move Obamacare’s repeal on a “parallel track” as a replacement, though he contends Congress will have to act on its repeal first.

“It’s important for us in the House to at least start debating the merits of a replacement plan sooner than later,” he said. “Part of that is hearing from constituents who definitely want it repealed, but there’s also a group who say they definitely want to know what they can count on when repeal takes place.”

Republican leaders said they want to have a bill repealing Obamacare on the president-elect’s desk not long after his Jan. 20 inauguration, and the Senate has already taken the first step toward dismantling the health care law through reconciliation.

But their plan has been disrupted by a group of five GOP senators attempting to delay repeal until March.

Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Portman of Ohio offered an amendment to the budget resolution that would give House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over Obamacare until March 23 to write the legislation that would roll back the health care law.

House Republican leaders, though, are committed to moving forward with repeal.

“Without delay, we are taking action,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday. “We are putting in place the tools necessary to keep our promise on this law.”

Gun-shy

Schriftman, who lives in Maple Glen, Pa., has been active in Democratic politics since the 1970s.

In 1974, 1976, and 2004 he ran for the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, but ultimately decided to leave the party.

Now, Schriftman is calling on congressional Democrats to work with Republicans to craft a replacement for Obamacare, or face a continued loss of support from constituents.

“You can help craft legislation that provides real reform or you can stubbornly cling to your failed programs and force your constituents to continue suffering with high premiums, high deductibles, lack of choices, and high taxes to pay for it,” Schriftman wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

He fears that if Republicans don’t repeal and replace the law, the future of health insurance under Obamacare will continue on a downhill slide.

“They’re not going to do better in 2018 if they stand in the way of reform,” Schriftman said of congressional Democrats. “If nothing changes and all they do is a little fix and keep the basic structure of Obamacare in place, where are the American people going to be in two years? What are the premiums going to be in two years? How many carriers are going to be left in two years? How many doctors are going to be really happy?”

And though he believes Republicans in Congress now have a real opportunity to repeal the law, Schriftman said he’s “anxious about some of the Republicans getting gun-shy.”

“This is their opportunity. This is it,” he said. “They either get behind fixing it, or they’re going to have even worse problems with the public. People are just so fed up.”

The post As Congress Plots Repeal, Former Pennsylvania Democrat Faces $784 in Monthly Premiums Under Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

As Congress Plots Repeal, Former Pennsylvania Democrat Faces $784 in Monthly Premiums Under Obamacare

Before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, he promised Americans they would have quality, affordable health care, and would be able to keep their same health insurance plans and doctors.

But in the three years since Obamacare’s exchanges opened for business, Ross Schriftman, 64, said none of those promises have come to fruition for him.

Before the health care law was implemented, Schriftman was paying $218 per month for coverage from Independence Blue Cross with a $5,000 deductible. In 1974, long before the Obamacare seed was planted, Schriftman recalled paying just $12 per month for his very first health insurance plan.

This year, though, Schriftman’s policy with Independence Blue Cross is costing him $784 per month with a $6,500 deductible. Schriftman, an insurance agent, doesn’t qualify for a subsidy.

Before the health care law was implemented and into Obamacare’s first years of existence, Schriftman, a former Democrat, deposited money throughout the year into his health savings account, or a medical savings account.

But now that his premiums have increased so substantially, the health insurance agent said he can no longer afford to put away the extra money.

And before the implementation of the health care law, Schriftman, like millions of other Americans, was told he would be able to keep his plan once Obamacare took effect.

But, also like millions of other Americans, his original $218-per-month policy with Independence Blue Cross was canceled.

Schriftman picked a new plan through Aetna, but history repeated itself, and the insurer canceled his plan.

Ross Schriftman (Photo: Ross Schriftman)

Ross Schriftman (Photo: Ross Schriftman)

“Talk about choice,” he told The Daily Signal. “Talk about losing.”

Now, Schriftman is back where he was before Obamacare’s implementation, with a policy from Independence Blue Cross.

This time, though, some things are different.

“I’m paying higher premiums. I’m paying higher taxes, and I have worse coverage,” he said.

In a statement to The Daily Signal, Paula Sunshine, chief marketing officer for Independence Blue Cross, said the insurer is working with consumers to “find the benefits that are right for them and the care they need,” but said the company also needs to “ensure a sustainable market.”

“Our rates reflect the changing market trends impacting insurers here and across the country,” Sunshine said.

Taking Action

Like so many Americans on both sides of the debate over Obamacare, Schriftman is watching the Republican-led Congress closely as they work on a plan to repeal and replace the health care law.

Since Obama signed Obamacare into law in 2010, GOP lawmakers have been talking about repealing it, and have voted to do so more than 60 times.

But with Obama in the White House, their efforts were unsuccessful.

That changed Nov. 8, when voters elected Republican businessman Donald Trump to the White House, and the GOP retained control of both the House and the Senate.

Trump, along with many Republicans on the ballot, campaigned on repealing Obamacare.

This year, they’ll finally have their shot.

GOP lawmakers have agreed to roll back much of the health care law using reconciliation, a budget tool that is especially powerful in the Senate.

There, reconciliation bills need just 51 votes to pass, and Republicans hold 52 seats in the upper chamber.

But while the GOP has come to an agreement on how to repeal Obamacare, the party is split over when to vote on its replacement—and hasn’t yet agreed on a replacement—and whether to get rid of Obamacare’s taxes immediately.

Democrats and the White House, meanwhile, are warning that repealing the law would cause 20 million Americans who gained health insurance under Obamacare to lose coverage.

And it’s a concern that has some Republicans rethinking whether repeal first, replace later is a viable strategy.

“I think it’s important that we move sooner on a replacement than later,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told The Daily Signal, “just to alleviate some of the concerns of those that may be fearful of losing their health insurance.”

Meadows said he would like to see the House move Obamacare’s repeal on a “parallel track” as a replacement, though he contends Congress will have to act on its repeal first.

“It’s important for us in the House to at least start debating the merits of a replacement plan sooner than later,” he said. “Part of that is hearing from constituents who definitely want it repealed, but there’s also a group who say they definitely want to know what they can count on when repeal takes place.”

Republican leaders said they want to have a bill repealing Obamacare on the president-elect’s desk not long after his Jan. 20 inauguration, and the Senate has already taken the first step toward dismantling the health care law through reconciliation.

But their plan has been disrupted by a group of five GOP senators attempting to delay repeal until March.

Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Portman of Ohio offered an amendment to the budget resolution that would give House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over Obamacare until March 23 to write the legislation that would roll back the health care law.

House Republican leaders, though, are committed to moving forward with repeal.

“Without delay, we are taking action,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday. “We are putting in place the tools necessary to keep our promise on this law.”

Gun-shy

Schriftman, who lives in Maple Glen, Pa., has been active in Democratic politics since the 1970s.

In 1974, 1976, and 2004 he ran for the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, but ultimately decided to leave the party.

Now, Schriftman is calling on congressional Democrats to work with Republicans to craft a replacement for Obamacare, or face a continued loss of support from constituents.

“You can help craft legislation that provides real reform or you can stubbornly cling to your failed programs and force your constituents to continue suffering with high premiums, high deductibles, lack of choices, and high taxes to pay for it,” Schriftman wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

He fears that if Republicans don’t repeal and replace the law, the future of health insurance under Obamacare will continue on a downhill slide.

“They’re not going to do better in 2018 if they stand in the way of reform,” Schriftman said of congressional Democrats. “If nothing changes and all they do is a little fix and keep the basic structure of Obamacare in place, where are the American people going to be in two years? What are the premiums going to be in two years? How many carriers are going to be left in two years? How many doctors are going to be really happy?”

And though he believes Republicans in Congress now have a real opportunity to repeal the law, Schriftman said he’s “anxious about some of the Republicans getting gun-shy.”

“This is their opportunity. This is it,” he said. “They either get behind fixing it, or they’re going to have even worse problems with the public. People are just so fed up.”

The post As Congress Plots Repeal, Former Pennsylvania Democrat Faces $784 in Monthly Premiums Under Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The Obamacare Taxes Dividing Republicans

Republicans have coalesced around a strategy for repealing Obamacare using a budget tool called reconciliation.

But a divide has emerged among some Republican senators who, splitting from their conservative colleagues, believe they should delay a repeal of Obamacare’s taxes until a replacement plan is implemented.

On one side of the debate are Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Susan Collins of Maine who would like to leave in place the taxes—levied on insurers, medical device companies, employers, and individuals—included in Obamacare.

The revenue streams pay for Obamacare’s subsidies, which extend to Americans purchasing coverage on the federal and state-run exchanges, and the senators say the taxes are necessary to fund the subsidies further during a two- or three-year transition period after repealing Obamacare.

“Right now, the track we’re on, the repeal process is going to repeal all the revenues, but keep in place the subsidies for three years,” Corker said last week at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

The Republican senators aren’t ruling out replacing the taxes altogether, but are advocating doing so later this year when Congress moves to reform the tax code using reconciliation.

“If we don’t like ‘em, we can replace them,” Cassidy told Bloomberg. “But we can do it in a way where you overall are lowering tax rates and making the tax code more efficient. There will be enough there for people to win.”

The senators’ push to keep Obamacare’s taxes in place temporarily puts them at odds with conservatives like Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who believe their repeal should be done immediately and through the reconciliation bill that will roll back key aspects of the law.

“To look at any repeal of the Affordable Care Act without repealing the taxes would be something that would generally come out of a more liberal think tank than it would be from a conservative member of Congress,” Meadows told The Daily Signal. “Without a doubt, the taxes should be repealed.”

On the issue of the taxes, Meadows has a powerful ally in House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, who said in an interview on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday that all of the taxes would be included in a repeal bill.

“Those taxes are causing real damage to families, to our small businesses, to the economy as well, along with the key mandates that drive up the expense of Obamacare,” he said. “All those need to be repealed immediately because look, Obamacare is getting worse.”

Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, pushed back on his colleagues’ argument that the revenue streams are needed to fund a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Rather than fit a new proposal around the money raised by Obamacare’s taxes, the North Carolina Republican said he preferred a plan that involved crafting a replacement first, and then finding the revenue streams to support it.

“It’s a backward argument to suggest you put a pot of money out there and figure out a replacement to fit it,” Meadows said. “It would be more prudent to come up with a replacement, and then figure out the taxes that are needed to support it.”

But for some lawmakers, especially those who signed pledges not to raise taxes, it may be politically difficult to find ways to increase revenue for a replacement plan.

Meadows, though, said it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

“That strategy will always make you be a lot more conservative in the amount of taxes that you’re asking for from hard-working American taxpayers instead of just assuming you have a certain budget and spend all of that and then some,” he said.

Conservatives in the House and Senate have for years been pushing for Obamacare’s full repeal, and most say they believe that any reconciliation bill that leaves the taxes in place would fall short of their promise to the American people to roll back the law.

“Repeal it. Get rid of it, every single bit of it. Don’t keep any of it,” Jordan told Bloomberg TV earlier this week. “That’s all the taxes, all the mandates, all the things that are in this thing that the American people don’t like and that I think have driven up the cost of medicine, hurt economic growth. I think we’ve got to do what we told voters we were going to do.”

Plus, Senate GOP leadership can’t stand to lose the support of three senators, since a reconciliation bill needs 51 votes in the upper chamber to pass.

Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the Senate.

Already, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida have sent Senate leaders a letter telling them they support a strategy to repeal Obamacare using reconciliation.

But the senators urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Majority Whip John Cornyn, and Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi to use a reconciliation bill passed by the last Congress as a floor for future reconciliation legislation.

That bill repealed all of Obamacare’s taxes and eliminated the individual and employer mandates, and Medicaid expansion. It also stripped the government of its authority to run the federal and state-run exchanges, and decreased the fine for failing to comply with the individual and employer mandates to $0.

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