House begins deliberations on repealing the health care reform law while Committees begin to develop alternative plan

Today, the House of Representatives begins debate today on repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The vote is scheduled to occur tomorrow, January 19. This will mark the first step for Republicans in their effort to use a variety of legislative tools to undo the new federal health law. After the vote, House committees will begin considering targeted parts of health law. H.R. 2, The Patients’ Rights Repeal Act, is likely to pass the House; however, no action is expected in the Senate.
Meanwhile the Republican leadership has charged four House committees with developing an alternate plan to the ACA. The committees were given only a broad list of 12 objectives listed in HR 9, Instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law. There is some speculation that the Republicans may try to revive elements a plan they developed in 2009 that included provisions that are similar to the ACA (high risk pools and extending coverage to age 26) as well as a number that are substantially different: 1) allowing people to buy insurance across state lines; 2) expanding tax-free health savings accounts, and 3) restricting awards in medical malpractice cases. Aside from these provisions, very little is known about what any new Republican measure may include. The absence of information is owed in part to the large number of freshmen Republicans in the House (87) and the large proportion (nearly half) assigned to the influential Ways and Means Committee. What is certain is that the individual responsibility to obtain health insurance (commonly referred to the “individual mandate”) will not be included. This key provision which broadens the risk pool by increasing the number of insured persons, and consequently brings down costs, is the centerpiece of the ACA.
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