- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2017

House Republicans floated legislation Thursday to start replacing Obamacare bit by bit, but some vocal conservatives said the GOP needs to speed the whole process up, saying they promised voters during last year’s campaign a quick vote on repealing the health law.

They said Congress already approved a repeal once, in 2015, only to see if vetoed by President Obama. The fastest way to show voters the GOP means business is to pass that same bill now, and send it to President Trump, the conservatives said.

“Health care will be better and more affordable once Obamacare is repealed,” said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio. “We committed to the American people to repeal every tax, every mandate, the regulations, and to defund Planned Parenthood. That’s what the American people expect us to do — and they expect us to do it quickly.”

The 2015 bill also would have defunded Planned Parenthood for one year as punishment for its abortion practice, and pro-life Republicans are itching to revive the effort as part of this year’s package.

But GOP leaders are traveling a more cautious road, saying they want to have a replacement ready to go when they attempt their repeal because insurance markets need the certainty of what comes next.

They’re already behind their own self-imposed schedule, though, which called for key committees to have their plans ready by Jan. 27.

GOP lawmakers want to allow insurers to provide cheaper plans with fewer benefits, or relax Obamacare rules that have prevented insurers from charging older consumers more than three times what they charged younger enrollees.

Rep. Larry Bucshon, Indiana Republican, is pushing legislation that would change that ratio to five-to-one, or let states choose their own.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden wrote draft legislation that would still require insurers to offer coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions, once Obamacare is repealed.

House GOP plans typically require consumers to maintain continuous coverage to take advantage of that protection.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, knocked Mr. Walden for putting a “placeholder” in his bill — right now it’s blank — on how to incentivize consumers to maintain coverage, casting it as a metaphor for the GOP’s broader struggles.

“The chairman’s bill,” he said, “literally runs off the page.”

Democrats say Congress should fix, not repeal, Obamacare with more generous subsidies or a government-run “public option” plan to compete with private plans on the exchanges.

But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Republicans are on a rescue mission, and that requires uprooting Obamacare.

“If we’re going to repair the U.S. health care system and get back to a patient-centered system that actually does lower costs and gives people peace of mind, you must repeal and replace Obamacare,” Mr. Ryan told “Fox and Friends.”

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