GOP acts fast on health care to avoid ire Dems faced

- It took former President Barack Obama and his Democrats more than a year to pass the Affordable Care Act, a slow and painstaking process that allowed plenty of time for a fierce backlash to ignite, undermining the law from the very start.

   Republicans are trying to avoid that pitfall as they attempt to fulfill years' worth of promises to repeal and replace Obama's law.

   Saturday morning, Vice President Mike Pence in Louisville, Ky., trying to make the case for repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama's health care law.

He has said former President Barack Obama's health care law is making it difficult for businesses to grow and the Trump administration will bring the "Obamacare nightmare" to an end.

Pence said in a speech to business leaders from the Latino Coalition that the health law has placed a "crushing burden" on job creation and hurt small businesses.

The vice president says despite "fear-mongering" there will be an "orderly transition" after Congress acts to repeal the law.

He says the White House will work after the repeal to allow for the sale of health insurance across state lines.

Pence says he wants to "get that little lizard on television or get Flo out there selling health insurance," a reference to GEICO and Progressive Insurance ads.


   After going public with their long-sought bill on Monday, House Republicans swiftly pushed it through two key committees. They hope to pass the legislation in the full House during the week of March 20 before sending it to the Senate and then, they hope, to President Donald Trump -- all before Congress can take a recess that could allow town hall fury to erupt.
   Democrats are crying foul, accusing Republicans of rushing the bill through before the public can figure out what it does. Republicans dispute the criticism, arguing that their legislation enshrines elements of a plan House Republicans worked on for months last year and campaigned on under House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
   "We offered it up in June. We ran on it all through the election. And now we've translated it into legislation," Ryan said.
   Yet after seven years of Republican promises to undo Obama's signature health law and without ever uniting behind a plan to achieve that, the fact that they produced a bill at all came as something of a surprise. 
   And now, after months of confident predictions that Republicans would not be able to get their act together on health care, Democrats find themselves wondering anxiously whether the GOP could actually succeed in wiping away those arduous months of work from the dawn of the Obama administration.
   "Nobody believed Republicans had a bill," said the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, "until Monday night."
   It's a far cry from eight years ago, when Democrats held countless hearings and debated at length, in public and private, how to enact the most significant changes to the nation's health care system in a generation. 
   While Republicans are not trying for bipartisan support on their repeal bill, Democrats spent arduous months in the Senate with a bipartisan working group of three Republican and three Democratic senators, known as the Gang of Six, trying to agree on a bipartisan bill. That effort ultimately failed.
   The GOP legislation is 123 pages long. The Affordable Care Act rang in at more than 900 pages.
   "We held hearings and we just spent seemingly endless hours working it over -- very different from what the Republicans are doing," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.
   To be sure, creating an enormous federal program requires more time and effort than jettisoning some pieces of an existing one while replacing others with new, or in some cases retooled, conservative-friendly solutions. 
   The GOP legislation would eliminate the current mandate that nearly all people in the United States carry insurance or face fines. It would use tax credits to allow consumers to buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under Obama's law, and scrap a number of taxes.
   Republicans have proceeded thus far without official estimates on how much the bill will cost or how many people will be covered, though it's expected to be millions fewer than under Obama's law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates are expected Monday, and that could affect Republicans' chances.
   Despite the momentum claimed by GOP leaders and the White House, deep divisions remain in their party. Conservatives argue that the legislation doesn't do enough to uproot the law. Other Republicans express qualms about the impact on Medicaid recipients in their states. Some Republicans accuse Ryan and House GOP leaders of moving too quickly.
   "We should have an open process, we should allow all of the members to amend legislation, within reason," said GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a perennial leadership foe.
   But Democrats paid a price for their lengthy process, and there was second-guessing even then over the length of time Obama allowed the Senate's Gang of Six group to spend in its ultimately fruitless quest. As the months dragged on, public opposition grew. Over Congress' August recess in 2009, that rage overflowed at town halls that spawned the tea party movement, which would take back GOP control of the House the next year.
   There's little question that if the GOP process were to drag out for months, especially over a long congressional recess, a similar dynamic could emerge, especially given the consumer and senior groups that have lined up against the legislation and the energized Democratic base already on display at marches and town halls this year. 
   If Republicans succeed in shoving the bill through this month, such opposition will have less time to make itself known.
   Instead, even some congressional Republicans are expressing some amazement at finding themselves, eight years later, undoing the law Democrats forged through those many months of turmoil and debate.
   "I'm pleasantly surprised," said GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who gained notoriety for yelling "You lie!" at Obama during a health care speech to Congress in 2009.
Tax credits work differently in 'Obamacare' and GOP plan
   Republicans hate "Obamacare," so House GOP leaders freak out whenever their health care bill is compared to President Barack Obama's law. But one reason some conservatives are branding the bill "Obamacare Lite" comes down to the tax credits to help consumers buy insurance.
   Both tax credits target people who don't get health insurance from their employer or from the government. They are both available to people even if they don't make enough money to owe any federal income tax. And they are both entitlement programs -- if you meet the criteria, you are entitled to the benefit.
   But there are significant differences in the size and reach of the tax credits.
   The Obamacare tax credits are designed to limit the share of income that people have to spend on health insurance.
   The GOP tax credits are simpler, but consumers might still have to pay a large share of their income to obtain health insurance.
   "These credits have long been part of the conservative health care reform ideal, supported by arch-conservatives in Congress as well as right-leaning think tanks going back for decades," according to a release from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
   Some Republicans aren't buying it.
   "I think it's Obamacare in a different form," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. "Let's do what we told the voters we were going to do. ... Clean repeal."
   A look at how the tax credits work in each plan:
   The tax credits in the Affordable Care Act are based on income and the cost of insurance premiums in a state marketplace. In general, the lower an individual's income the larger the tax credit. Also, the more expensive the premium, the larger the credit.
   Here is how it works:
   -- You're 30 years old and single, making $23,000 a year. The average benchmark premium for a 30-year-old is $3,844 a year, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
   Your Obamacare tax credit would be $2,426. You would pay $118 a month in premiums, or $1,418 for the year.
   -- You're 60 years old and single, making $23,000. The average benchmark premium for a 60-year-old is $9,191 a year.
   Your Obamacare tax credit would be $7,773. You, too, would pay $118 a month in premiums.
   There's more.
   Obamacare also provides subsidies that can reduce out-of-pocket expenses such as annual deductibles and copayments.
   Obamacare tax credits are available to people making as much as 400 percent of the poverty level. For an individual, that's $46,680. For a family of two, that's $62,920, and for a family of four, it's $95,400.
   The credits range from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on age. Older consumers get larger credits. The tax credits are capped at $14,000 for a family.
   Income is not a factor in the size of the tax credit, though they are phased out for individuals making more than $75,000 and for married couples making more than $150,000.
   Using the previous examples: the 30-year-old making $23,000 would be eligible for a $2,500 tax credit -- slightly more than under Obamacare. That would lower the cost of the annual premium to $1,344.
   Also, lower premiums could be available for younger people under the Republican plan because it makes changes in current insurance rules that favor older customers.
   The 60-year-old making $23,000 would get a $4,000 credit -- less than under Obamacare. That would increase the annual premium to $5,191.
   Also, premiums could go up for older adults because the GOP bill allows insurers to charge more as people age and become more susceptible to health problems.
   There's more.
   Under the GOP plan, a 60-year-old making $70,000 would still get a $4,000 credit. Under Obamacare, this person is not eligible for a tax credit because they make too much money.


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