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Some US Lawmakers Looking to Repair Health Law, Not Repeal It

  • Ken Bredemeier

FILE - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. speaks on Capitol Hill, Jan. 12, 2016.

Bipartisan groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers are looking for ways to fix problematic parts of the U.S. health care law, even as President Donald Trump says he wants to let it collapse.

Trump has voiced his anger that the Senate last week failed in three attempts to overhaul the law, passed during the first term of former President Barack Obama and commonly known as Obamacare. Since then he has said he just wants to let the law implode and leave Democrats to explain to voters why their insurance premiums increased sharply or they couldn't buy insurance at all.

FILE - Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks at a news conference in Seattle, Feb. 21, 2017.
FILE - Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks at a news conference in Seattle, Feb. 21, 2017.


But Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he would hold bipartisan hearings next month with Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state on how to repair the market for those who, unlike most Americans, do not have employer- or government-provided insurance.

Alexander said an array of witnesses would be called to testify about their experiences with Obamacare, focusing on what needs to be revamped to make it work better. It is a legislative effort sharply at odds with Republicans' seven-year effort to upend the law and replace it with a more conservative version that costs the government less money and places far fewer requirements on insurance companies regarding the types of polices they can sell.

"If your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is the individual health insurance market," Alexander said. "Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this."

A group of about 40 lawmakers in the House of Representatives has embarked on a similar effort to find ways to make the law work rather than repeal it.

Trump has given no indication so far that he wants to repair rather than repeal Obamacare. His White House budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, said the government could cut off monthly payments to insurance companies that help the poor buy insurance, a move that would most likely lead to further increases in insurance premiums in the individual market.

'Demand another vote'

In a Twitter comment earlier this week, the president said, "Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!"

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, conceded he did not have enough Republican votes to overhaul the law. In the key vote early Friday, all 48 Democrats joined three Republicans to reject Trump's overtures on a 51-49 vote to derail a bid to even pass a slimmed-down repeal measure.

In the aftermath of the vote, Trump implored, "Don't give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace."

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