Health Insurance

Congressional Republicans worry about Obamacare repeal and replacement fallout, new recording shows

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Talking about getting rid of Obamacare was easy — now Republicans are sweating over actually doing it.

A recording of a meeting of Congressional Republicans reveals their doubts, concerns and worries over how to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and how to replace that health-care reform law, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The recording underscored the fact that while Obamacare has been popular for many people, it also has led to insurance for millions of Americans whose loss of it would generate political fallout, the report said.

"We'd better be sure that we're prepared to live with the market we've created" with Obamacare repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif, according to the Post article.

"That's going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we'll be judged in the election less than two years away."

Trump: Our legislative work starts with repealing and replacing Obamacare

Another GOP congressman at a retreat this week held in Philadelphia, Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, voiced concerns that plans being considered by Republicans could effectively eliminate health coverage for the 20 million or so people who have gained insurance through Obamacare in the past several years.

"We're telling those people that we're not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them," MacArthur reportedly said.

The Washington Post's article was based on a recording of the meeting that the paper said was sent to it and other news outlets anonymously last Thursday. The comments quoted in the article were confirmed as authentic by either the individual lawmakers or their staff, the newspaper said.

One of those lawmakers, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, was heard on the recording saying, "Our goal, in my opinion, should be not a quick fix. We can do it rapidly — but not a quick fix.

"We want a long-term solution that lowers costs," Alexander said.

And Rep. John Faso, R-NY, was quoted as saying, "We are just walking into a gigantic political trap" if Congress followed through on proposals to the group Planned Parenthood as part of repealing Obamacare.

Republicans have long objected to Obamacare, and voted for its repeal.

But they have struggled to craft a replacement plan that would be politically acceptable not only to a majority of GOP members of Congress, but also to enough Democratic senators whose votes would be needed to assure its passage.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order right after his inauguration on Jan. 20 that would allow executive branch officials to start dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act. Congress currently is moving along a parallel repeal track that would defund key parts of the law through the process known as budget reconciliation.

But Trump, and key Congressional leaders, have said they want a replacement plan on deck, ready to go once repeal is completed.

What an Obamacare replacement means for your health and money

A major concern among even opponents of Obamacare is that if a replacement is not on deck, insurers who sell individual health plans, of the kind available on Obamacare exchanges, would exit the market. Another fear is that millions of people would stop buying individual plans, which would wreck that market.

Obamacare currently requires most Americans to have some form of health coverage or pay a tax penalty. At the same time, the law subsidizes, via tax credits, the cost of the plans for most customers of the Obamacare exchanges. The ACA also allowed states to use federal dollars to expand the number of poor adults who are eligible for Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program.

A big question for any replacement plan is whether it would maintain funding for Medicaid expansion, which is responsible for the majority of newly insured people under the ACA.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex., was quoted in the Post story as worrying that one idea that has been discussed for a replacement plan, a refundable tax credit that could be used to offset the cost of insurance, would not work for middle-class families because they would not be able to afford to pre-pay their insurance premiums and then wait for a tax refund.

Under Obamacare, those families don't have to pay the full price first — the subsidy is automatically credited toward their monthly premium.

Read the full Washington Post story here.

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