Congress Prepares to Battle Over 'Obamacare'

PHOTO: Healthcare premiums are on the rise under Obamacare.PlayGetty Images/Hero Images
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The GOP-led House and Senate return to Washington on Tuesday to start dismantling President Obama’s signature health care law.

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Republicans, who vowed during the election season to replace the Affordable Care Act, are planning early votes to repeal elements of the law in the first days of the Trump administration. But they plan to phase out the law over several years, giving them time to craft a comprehensive replacement.

Meanwhile, Democrats are digging in, vowing to oppose major changes.

“We will not be accomplices in the breaking up and dismantling of affordable health care,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a call with reporters Monday.

On Wednesday morning, Obama will huddle with Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss how to protect “Obamacare” in the next Congress. Vice President–elect Mike Pence will meet with House Republicans at the same time to discuss repealing the law.

Republicans voted dozens of times to repeal the law under Obama, going so far last year as to send him repeal legislation, which he vetoed.

That effort, which would have blocked funding for Planned Parenthood, was seen as a trial balloon to illustrate how Republicans would roll back the law with a Republican president. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that proposal would have increased the number of people without health insurance by roughly 22 million.

With Donald Trump preparing to take office, Republicans are expected to utilize the same budget reconciliation process to push through select changes over Democratic opposition — a repeal effort that would take effect over several years.

“Clearly there will be a transition and a bridge so that no one is left out in the cold, so that no one is worse off,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in an interview with The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last month.

Democrats warn that some of the approximately 20 million Americans insured under “Obamacare” could lose coverage with Republicans actions, though House Republicans aim to provide “universal access” to health care for Americans seeking insurance, according to a House GOP leadership aide.

“The ball is in their court,” Pelosi said of Republicans on Monday.

Roughly 6.4 million Americans signed up for 2017 Affordable Care Act health care plans in December, according to the Obama administration.

Trump, Ryan and House GOP leaders favor keeping some elements of “Obamacare,” including a requirement that insurers cover existing conditions and one that allows children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 26.

“It happens to be one of the strongest assets,” Trump said about the existing condition provision in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” shortly after winning the election.