GOP moving to create alternative to Obamacare

With two weeks left in Obamacare's open-enrollment season, congressional Republicans are creating a group of top legislators to draw up a replacement for the still controversial health-care reform law and deal with potentially serious fallout from a pending Supreme Court case.

The move comes as Republicans have been repeatedly questioned about what they will do if the Supreme Court this June rules that billions of dollars in tax credits given to millions of Obamacare customers are illegal.

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Politico reported Friday that three top House members, among them former vice presidential contender and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, will head up a "working group" that will craft an alternative to Obamacare and "develop a strategy" for dealing with a possible outcome of the Supreme Court case.

The other members will be Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan and John Kline of Minnesota, who heads up the Education and Workforce Committee, Politico reported.

Paul Ryan
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Paul Ryan

The GOP has been criticized for their continued opposition to President Barack Obama's signature health law without offering a serious alternative to the program, which is credited with significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans last year.

But the pending Supreme Court case, due to be argued in March, has spurred what could turn out to be serious action by Republicans.

Republican leaders have said they hope the Supreme Court renders the subsidies illegal in 37 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov. Should that happen, a recent public opinion poll showed strong support for the idea that Congress should legalize those tax credits.

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Plaintiffs in the case argue that tax credits to help customers pay their premiums and out-of-pocket health costs can only be given to the customers of the 14 state-run exchanges, not to customers of a federally operated exchange.

While most people are unaware of the case, it could have significant fallout. If the subsides are taken away, millions of people could drop out of Obamacare, leading to much higher premium prices for the remaining customers.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that a court decision against the HealthCare.gov subsidies "opens the door to come up with some laws that will make up for the mess that we're in."

The Journal report also noted how Democrats planned to blame the Republicans for destroying the subsidies if the subsidies go away.

"What you're going to see is the Republican party with all their clothes off," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., according to the Journal. "They're standing over there naked as a jaybird and they are going to have to stand up and explain, 'Well, now we got rid of it, now what do we do?'"

Read the Politico story here.

Read the Wall Street Journal story here.