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Congressional panels begin fight over Obamacare

Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - 01:00

Two House of Representatives panels kicked off debate Wednesday, on a Republican bill backed by President Trump to overhaul Obamacare. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Two House of Representatives panels on Wednesday kicked off debate on a Republican bill backed by President Donald Trump to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system even as it faced a revolt from conservatives who called it too similar to the Obamacare law it is supposed to supplant. Doctors and other providers said the bill would probably cause many patients to lose insurance and raise healthcare costs. In a letter, the American Medical Association rejected the bill and urged lawmakers to reconsider its drastic changes to Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. The AMA, which supported Obamacare, said that by replacing income-based subsidies with age-based tax credits to help people buy insurance, the plan also would make coverage more expensive, if not out of reach, for poor and sick Americans. Obamacare enabled 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain medical coverage. Seeking to mollify conservative opponents of the legislation after their outcry on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the bill as "a conservative wish list" and "monumental, exciting conservative reform." "This is what we've been dreaming about doing," Ryan said at a news conference moments before the two committees began hearings at which the measure will be debated and amendments offered. Trump and congressional Republicans campaigned last year on a promise to dismantle Obamacare, which they called a government overreach, and the legislation represented a key step toward that goal. Even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade, the fate of the Republican legislation is far from certain, with Democrats and many conservative Republicans opposed while moderate Republicans also express reservations. Republican House leaders on Monday unveiled legislation to do away with Obamacare, Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement. The plan would scrap Obamacare's requirement that most Americans obtain medical insurance and replace its income-based subsides with a system of fixed tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 to coax people to purchase private insurance on the open market. The House Ways and Means Committee, with jurisdiction over taxes, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees health issues, kicked off what could become marathon sessions working on the legislation. Democrats and some Republicans are expected to try to reshape the bill, which dismantles key provisions of the 2010 law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act. The panels are due to tackle amendments and vote on the bill before it later goes to the House floor for a vote on passage. The legislation also must win approval in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slimmer majority, before going to Trump for his signature. Democrats have said the legislation will result in millions of Americans losing their medical insurance, adding that the bill benefits the rich by repealing healthcare-related taxes.

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Congressional panels begin fight over Obamacare

Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - 01:00