WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Long-awaited legislation to dismantle Obamacare was unwrapped on Monday by U.S. Republicans, who called for ending health insurance mandates and rolling back extra healthcare funding for the poor in a package that drew immediate fire from Democrats.
In a battle waged since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, Republicans including President Donald Trump have long vowed to repeal and replace the law. But they failed for years to coalesce around an alternative.
With a proposal now on the table, the fate of the plan is uncertain even with Republican majorities in both chambers. Also unclear is where Trump stands on many of the details.
“Today marks an important step toward restoring healthcare choices and affordability back to the American people,” the White House said in a statement, adding Trump looked forward to working with Congress on replacing Obamacare.
Republicans condemn Obamacare as government overreach, and Trump has called it a “disaster.”
Critics complained about the penalty the law charged those who refused to buy insurance. The Republican proposal would repeal that penalty immediately.
Congressional Democrats denounced the Republican plan, saying it would hurt Americans by requiring them to pay more for healthcare, to the benefit of insurers.
Obamacare is popular in many states, even some controlled by Republicans. It has brought health insurance coverage to about 20 million previously uninsured Americans, although premium increases have angered some.
About half those people gained coverage through an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor. The Republican proposal would end the Medicaid expansion on Jan. 1, 2020, and cap Medicaid funding after that date.