Health Care Repeal Tops Agenda of New Congress


Frist and former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle today announced they will lead a bipartisan project to help states develop and implement policy changes required under the new health care law.

"Progress cannot be achieved in the absence of bipartisan support," Daschle of South Dakota said. "We need to move past the political divides and the inflammatory rhetoric, especially in the wake of the terrible national tragedy in Arizona, and dedicate ourselves to substantive national discussion and find real bipartisan solutions to our health care system's most critical needs."

Debate on the Health Care Repeal Vote Starts Today

The bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate or to be signed by Obama. Republicans admit it is a symbolic vote but argue it is one that signals the start of their efforts that will likely continue for years to come, even as the Obama administration rolls out the new provisions in the plan.

Democrats say the repeal vote gives them the opportunity to re-explain the law to Americans, who still remain confused about what it really means to them.

"The debate in some ways in the House gives us a chance to ... remind people what it is that's at stake. Why we can't go back to where we were," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today on a conference call with reporters.

HHS today released a new administration analysis that estimates the law -- when it fully kicks in three years from now -- will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to between 50 and 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some kind of pre-existing health condition.

Per the study, as many as 129 million Americans younger than 65 have some kind of pre-existing health condition and would be at risk of losing health insurance if the law is repealed. The study estimated that up to 30 percent of perfectly healthy Americans, specifically older citizens, are likely to develop a pre-existing condition in the next eight years.

"The health insurance reform we passed protects consumers, plain and simple," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. "Repealing the entire law would put insurance companies back in charge of patient care, rather than the patients themselves."

Americans are still divided over the law, although opposition that existed in the early days of the debate has subsided, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Monday.

The poll finds that 40 percent of those surveyed said they support the law, while 41 percent oppose it. Just after the November congressional elections, opposition stood at 47 percent and support was 38 percent. Only about one in four said they wanted to repeal the law completely.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the health care law would cost $145 billion through the end of the decade and $230 billion by 2021, and that it would add roughly $145 billion to the federal budget deficit.

But Republicans have dismissed the estimates, saying the numbers don't fully take into account the negative impact of the new provisions.

ABC News' Jay Shalor and Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

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