Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

GOP leaders unveil new health law outline, divisions remain

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., offered no details  but said the plan was to introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare after Congress' upcoming weeklong recess.  [Associated Press]

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., offered no details but said the plan was to introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare after Congress' upcoming weeklong recess. [Associated Press]

WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans unveiled a rough sketch of a massive health care overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers Thursday, but a lack of detail, cost estimates and GOP unity left unresolved the problem that's plagued them for years: What's the party's plan and can Congress pass it?

At a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other party leaders described a broad vision for voiding much of former President Barack Obama's 2010 statute and replacing it with conservative policies. It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors' bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.

Lawmakers called the ideas options, and many were controversial. One being pushed by Ryan and other leaders would replace the tax increases in Obama's law with new levies on the value of some employer-provided health plans — a political no-fly zone for some Republicans averse to tax boosts of any sort.

"Were not going to get out of this overnight," Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., said of the overall effort.

The scant health care progress mirrors a lack of movement on other issues in a capital run by the GOP. No proposals have surfaced to pursue President Donald Trump's campaign promises to build a border wall with Mexico or buttress the nation's infrastructure, and Republicans have yet to coalesce around another priority, revamping the nation's tax code.

Senate Republicans have criticized a House GOP plan to change how corporations are taxed. Trump has said he will release his own proposal in the coming weeks, but nothing had been produced, drawing mockery from Democrats.

"At some point we need to move from imaginary made-up plans to things that you can read on paper," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

The health care outline was aimed at giving Republicans something to exhibit during next week's congressional recess, at a time of boisterous town hall meetings packed with supporters of Obama's law. Ryan told reporters that Republicans would introduce legislation voiding and replacing Obama's statute after Congress returns in late February, but offered no specifics.

Many Republicans took an upbeat tone after Thursday's meeting, with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., saying, "We're only 27 days into the new administration, so we have time."

But they have repeatedly failed for seven years to rally behind a substitute plan, and there are no guarantees of success in replacing a law that has extended coverage to 20 million Americans. And there are sure clashes ahead this time over crucial details that could jeopardize the entire effort.

"Those are just the weeds kind of the details, but they're important," Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., said of unresolved questions about Medicaid, underscoring battles ahead.

Obama's law levied $1.1 trillion in taxes over a decade to finance its expanded coverage to millions. GOP leaders said some or all of those taxes could be repealed, with the revenue replaced by a new tax on health care that employees receive at work.

Two people familiar with the proposal said individuals would pay taxes on the value of such coverage above $12,000, and above $30,000 for families. Republicans would not confirm those amounts, though House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told reporters that "the vast, vast majority of Americans" would be unaffected.

According to documents distributed to members and obtained by the Associated Press, the expansion of Medicaid to millions of additional poorer people — almost entirely financed by federal taxpayers — would be phased out. In a compromise aimed at resolving a bitter dispute, extra Medicaid money would flow to the 31 states that accepted that expansion and the 19 that didn't, though it would end "after a certain date" left unspecified.

After that, states would get far more discretion to decide who would be covered by Medicaid. They'd also decide whether to receive federal Medicaid funds based on the fluctuating numbers of the program's beneficiaries or a set annual amount.

The tax penalties Obama's law levies on people who don't buy insurance would be abolished, as would federal subsidies for most people buying coverage on the online exchanges the statute established. They would be replaced by tax credits for people who don't have job- or government-provided health coverage and tax-advantaged health savings accounts. Republicans said decisions on amounts have not been made.

GOP leaders unveil new health law outline, divisions remain 02/16/17 [Last modified: Thursday, February 16, 2017 4:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]