U.S. Republicans lack agreement on Obamacare ahead of Trump speech

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By David Morgan | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The White House and Congress lacked
agreement on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare on Tuesday
amid signs of growing Republican division on the issue, as
President Donald Trump prepared to address lawmakers about his
2017 agenda.

Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are
in agreement in their opposition to former Democratic President
Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law but the details are
proving knotty.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell said separately that an effort
was under way to get both chambers and the White House to agree
on a plan to eliminate and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re not there yet,” McConnell told reporters, hours
before Trump was due to address a joint session of Congress.

“There’s a lot of discussion about how to craft that, what
combination of legislation and regulation will get us to where
we want to get,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republican conservatives in the House signaled
resistance to replacement draft legislation that would limit tax
breaks on some employer-sponsored healthcare plans and offer tax
credits based on age rather than income to help consumers buy
insurance.

“It’s a new entitlement program,” said Representative Mark
Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of a 40-member bloc of
Republican lawmakers known as the House Freedom Caucus.

“It raises taxes on the middle class to give subsidies to
others who could indeed be millionaires,” he added. “It also
comes down to a plan that doesn’t reduce the cost of
healthcare.”

Ryan had promised legislation on Obamacare after lawmakers
returned to Washington this week from a 10-day recess.

On Tuesday, he told reporters that the White House, Senate
and House were working on a single plan to repeal and replace
the healthcare law. He insisted there were no rival plans.

“At the end of the day, when we get everything done and
right, we’re going to be unified on this,” Ryan said.

Meadows said it would become clear within 48 hours whether
the draft has enough support to pass the House.

He said he supported a different bill introduced by Senator
Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Mark Sanford of South
Carolina.

Paul said conservative lawmakers are concerned congressional
leaders are discussing a plan that would include new
entitlements that the government cannot afford.

“We’re not just going along with whatever they try to shove
down our throats,” Paul told CNN. “We’re going to be a big part
of this. Conservatives will be listened to or there won’t be a
repeal,” he said.

The Paul-Sanford bill would expand the use of health savings
accounts (HSAs) to pay for healthcare costs and offer tax
credits to people who contribute to HSAs.

Another Freedom Caucus member, Representative Jim Jordan of
Ohio, said he also favored the replacement bill put forward by
Paul and Sanford. “We could bring back affordable health
insurance,” he said. (Additional reporting by Eric Beech)



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