Trump, Republicans set timeframe for introducing Obamacare replacement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress said on Thursday that they will soon unveil plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, providing a timeframe for a legislative goal they have struggled with for weeks.

FILE PHOTO - The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as "Obamacare", outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. on October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

Republicans, who control the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, have long vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act but have had difficulty agreeing on a detailed plan for replacing the signature domestic policy of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

But announcements from Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed progress.

“We’re doing Obamacare, we’re in the final stages,” Trump told a news conference. “So we will be submitting sometime in early March, mid-March.”

Earlier Thursday, Ryan told reporters on Capitol Hill that House Republicans would introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obama’s program after a 10-day recess that begins on Friday.

“After the House returns following the Presidents Day break, we intend to introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Ryan said at a press conference. Presidents Day is on Monday and the House returns on Feb. 27.

Ryan spoke shortly after many House Republicans huddled in a closed session with newly-installed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss their options to change the 2010 law.

The session was part pep talk and part laying out of talking points that can be delivered to constituents during the recess.

A 19-page “policy brief” was distributed to lawmakers, and it included some details of the emerging House Republican healthcare strategy.

In the weeks ahead, Republicans intend to repeal the penalties for Obamacare’s mandate requiring individuals to get coverage and employers to provide it, the policy brief said.

The House Republican replacement plan for Obamacare will include an age-based monthly tax credit that Americans who do not get health insurance through their employer can use to buy health insurance and take from job to job, the brief said.

House Republicans plan to unwind the expansion of the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor that happened under Obamacare, and eventually cap federal Medicaid payments to states, the document said. And they plan to repeal cuts that Obamacare made in payments to hospitals treating large numbers of uninsured.

Lawmakers left the meeting saying there was plenty more work ahead on thorny issues. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said there is “a range of options” for giving states more say over Medicaid. He also said there were options to offset the cost of a Republican plan, such as capping the tax exclusion for employer-based healthcare plans.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Grant McCool