US House poised to vote on healthcare law repeal
* Effort to repeal 2010 law unlikely to get past Senate
* Republicans seek to honor campaign pledge to scrap law
* Law's passage was major achievement for Democrat Obama
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on repeal of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law on Wednesday in a mostly symbolic move that is likely to be scuttled in the Senate.
Republican leaders said they were committed to try to scrap the law -- signed by Obama last year after a bitter battle in Congress -- to honor a campaign pledge that helped them win control of the House and gain seats in the Senate in elections last November.
"Our pledge was to repeal 'Obamacare,'" said House Speaker John Boehner, using a derisive term for the law. "Why? Because it is going to increase spending, increase taxes and destroy jobs in America."
Polls show that Americans are split on the law. An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that more Americans now believe it will hurt rather than help the struggling U.S. economy. But the poll also showed that just 18 percent favor full repeal of the law.
Wednesday's vote is widely seen as a symbolic gesture since the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the measure even if it wins House passage. If the Senate were to pass the measure, Obama has vowed to veto any repeal of the healthcare law, one of his biggest victories in Congress.
Republicans have complained that the law will saddle businesses with high costs and complicated regulations. Democrats have heralded the law as an historic move to deliver health insurance to more than 30 million people who currently cannot afford coverage while also lowering medical costs and providing more consumer protections.
The tone of the two-day debate was subdued in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Six other people were killed in the attack that prompted calls for politicians to tone down the rhetoric.
House Republicans cleared the way for a vote on repealing the healthcare law with a procedural vote held the day before Giffords was shot and gravely wounded. After the shooting, Republicans delayed consideration of the bill by a week.
NO TALK OF DEATH PANELS
Gone was Republican talk of "death panels" that surfaced during the previous debate on the law. For the most part, Republicans refrained from using the term "job killing," which they had previously used to describe aspects of the bill. The name of the bill, however, remains "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."
Democrats saw the debate as an opportunity to explain some of what they touted as the benefits of the new law, many of which have already gone into effect.
"People talk about repeal as political theater or symbolism," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "It isn't symbolic to the 149 million Americans with health conditions who now are locked out or priced out of the market."
Her department released a study on Tuesday that found that as many as 129 million Americans under age 65 have health problems that could hurt their ability to get health insurance or force them to pay higher premiums. [ID:nN18139128]
The law will bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.
Some, but not all, of the provisions in the law have gone into effect. They include requiring insurers to cover children with pre-existing conditions, allowing young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26, and creating temporary high-risk pools to help people with medical conditions obtain health coverage.
Other elements such as the creation of insurance exchanges to help individuals and small business compare and purchase plans do not go into effect until 2014.
A requirement that all Americans obtain health coverage is set to take effect in 2014. The delay will provide time for a legal challenge on the purchase requirement to work its way through the courts.
Federal courts have issued differing positions on whether whether the mandate to purchase health insurance is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. The question is expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Will Dunham)
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