- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Congressional Republicans have a lot of questions about how their agenda will square with that of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, but they say one area where they and the billionaire businessman are on the same page when it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare.

“I think he’s open to ideas that actually move us forward, so I don’t have any concerns about that,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Georgia Republican who has offered his own replacement to the 2010 health overhaul.

Mr. Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan have been moving on divergent tracks in 2016, with Mr. Trump staking out a populist stance on economic issues and immigration, even as Mr. Ryan has pushed House Republicans to build a more conventionally conservative platform.

Those differences will be highlighted Thursday when Mr. Trump meets with Mr. Ryan and his House leadership team.

But they see common ground when it comes to unraveling President Obama’s 2010 health law, where members of Congress hope to use Mr. Trump to sell their alternative to voters.

So far, Mr. Trump has not gone into detail on what he would do on health care. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have a number of different options, but have been unable to settle on a single alternative.

“I think it’s a good issue, he just needs to come up with a repeal and replacement plan. He’s going to have give specifics,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican who tussled with Mr. Trump during his own bid for the presidency.

He feels Mr. Trump hasn’t done that yet, but “in fairness to him, a lot of Republicans haven’t.”

House Republicans plotted their next steps Wednesday, holding a hearing searching for ideas on how to scrap Obamacare in favor of a GOP plan that relies on market incentives and health savings accounts that put patients in charge of their health dollars.

“We’re six years into the president’s health care law, and it’s not working the way people thought it might,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, said.

He said GOP members have “dozens and dozens of ideas” to shift away from Obamacare’s mandates and coverage requirements, such as allowing states to subsidize pools of high-risk consumers with pre-existing medical conditions, instead of Obamacare’s use of an individual mandate to prod healthy people into the market.

Committee Democrats said the GOP’s ideas aren’t needed. Roughly 20 million Americans have gained coverage under the law, leading to a historic reduction in the uninsured rate, and supporters think the law’s web-based exchanges will stabilize over time, as insurers get a handle on pricing for their customer base.

“I believe the ACA has been a success,” Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, said.

For her part, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said she wants to build on Obamacare’s reforms. Yet she has been pulled to the left by her rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist from Vermont who is pushing for a government-run, single-player health system.

Mrs. Clinton recently offered support for a government-run plan, or “public option,” that would compete with private plans on the Obamacare exchanges. The idea died off during the Obamacare debate in 2009-2010, after conservative Democrats threaten to block the bill unless it was taken out.

Republicans are banking on voters to reject Mrs. Clinton’s pitch and flock to a new approach, warning consumers will face rising costs on Obamacare’s exchange this fall.

“It will be the November surprise for many people across this country,” Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, told reporters this week. “And while Hillary Clinton wants to build on Obamacare, many, many Americans want it repealed and replaced.”



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