WASHINGTON Jan 27 Three prominent Republican
senators on Monday called for replacing Obamacare with a package
of election-year proposals intended to lower health insurance
costs while retaining some elements of President Barack Obama's
health reform law.
Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of
Oklahoma and Orrin Hatch of Utah released a legislative
blueprint that analysts say could help the Republican Party
offer a much-needed vision for healthcare ahead of November's
mid-term congressional elections, voting that will determine
which party controls Congress in the final two years of the
The proposals came a day before Obama is scheduled to defend
his top domestic policy in his State of the Union address on
"The American people have found out what is in Obamacare -
broken promises in the form of increased healthcare costs,
costly mandates and government bureaucracy. They don't like it
and don't want to keep it," Burr said in a statement.
Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has
extended health coverage to millions of people, despite a
botched October rollout. The administration says 6.3 million
people have signed up for private insurance as a result of
implementation. A similar number have been determined eligible
for Medicaid coverage.
The Republican alternative - dubbed the Patient Choice,
Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, or CARE Act -
would repeal Obamacare's mandates, taxes and fees and replace
the law with what aides called "common-sense, patient-centered"
reforms intended to lower costs.
As with earlier Republican initiatives, the approach would
address costs by making consumers responsible for more of their
medical bills, with assistance from health savings accounts
funded with pre-tax dollars that could be used to pay for
insurance premiums as well as healthcare services.
The plan would keep in place two popular Obamacare
provisions by banning lifetime limits on insurance benefits and
allowing adult children to stay on their parents' health plans
until age 26. It would scale back Obamacare subsidies to help
lower-income people buy private insurance, allow insurers to
charge older people more and protect the sick against insurance
market discrimination only if they remain continuously insured.
Medicaid, the program for the poor, which Obamacare would
expand to Americans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the
federal poverty level, would be limited to mothers, children and
the frail. Federal payments would be capped but states would
receive greater flexibility to run their own Medicaid programs.
Funding for the CARE Act would come mainly from new federal
taxes on employer-sponsored health plans, which are currently
excluded from taxation. The Republican proposal would make 35
percent of a plan's value taxable for employees but keep
employer tax deductions unchanged.
At the same time, it would leave in place as estimated $700
million in reduced payments to Medicare, while lawmakers seek a
separate bipartisan agreement on how to reform the program for
the elderly and disabled.
The White House was dismissive. "This looks very much like
just another repeal proposal, another attempt to raise taxes on
the middle class, to keep uninsured Americans with pre-existing
conditions locked out of the market, to raise costs on seniors
and to take away Medicaid from the millions of Americans," White
House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing.
But analysts said the proposal could help Republicans in the
"It gives them an opportunity to talk about these things in
a more positive way than just repeal and replace," said Joseph
Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative
Washington think tank.
Republicans have already made Obamacare a major campaign
issue in hopes of leveraging the law's unpopularity into active
voter support in November. Republicans voted to repeal, defund
or dismantle the law more than 40 times in the House of
Of likely U.S. voters, 43 percent view Obamacare at least
somewhat favorably, while 52 percent have an unfavorable view,
according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Monday.
But there is no consensus on how to replace the law and
party leaders believe it important enough to offer a positive
vision that House Republicans have made it a major topic for
their annual retreat this week.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Steve