During his fifth State of the Union address, President Barack Obama took a few minutes to defend the Affordable Care Act and confront Republicans for repeatedly voting to repeal the law, which he says is "already helping millions of Americans."
A combined total of more than 9 million people have signed up for either Medicaid or private health insurance through Obamacare, the president said during his speech Tuesday night. More than 3 million Americans younger than age 26 now have coverage under their parents' plans, he added.
A put-up-or-shut-up challenge
Obama took on Republican opposition to his key domestic achievement by challenging the other party to do more than disagree with the law and offer a viable, comprehensive health reform alternative.
"The American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up," Obama said.
The GOP-controlled House has voted more than 40 times to repeal or revise Obamacare, and it looks like the battle in Congress isn't over yet.
Three Republican senators have introduced an alternative to Obama's landmark health reform law, which they have dubbed the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment (CARE) Act.
The proposal from North Carolina's Richard Burr, Oklahoma's Tom Coburn and Utah's Orrin Hatch is described as "a legislative plan that repeals Obamacare and then replaces it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that reduce health care costs and increase access to affordable, high-quality care," according to a statement.
GOP plan would keep parts of Obamacare
"This proposal attempts to scale back or eliminate the features of ACA that are most objectionable to conservatives, but the proposal maintains several essential elements," notes Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Under the Patient CARE Act, only a few of Obamacare's protections would remain, including coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions, its elimination of lifetime limits on benefits and the coverage for dependents up to age 26.
The proposal also would put more of the onus on consumers to cover their own health care expenses and would lift spending restrictions on tax-advantaged health savings accounts, allowing the funds to be used to pay for an expanded list of qualified medical expenses, including over-the-counter medications and high-deductible health plan premiums.
"Forcing too many Americans out of the insurance they have, away from the doctor they trust and, for some, out of the job they need, Obamacare is a disaster," Hatch says in a statement.
The Patient CARE Act would eliminate the individual and employer mandates on health insurance and the tax penalties associated with them, and would provide tax credits only to Americans earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Additionally, Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage would be taxed on 35 percent of their plan's value, but employers would retain their tax incentives for offering health insurance to workers.
It remains to be seen whether the proposal can advance in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Democrats.
What are your thoughts on the new Republican health care plan? Does it measure up to Obamacare?
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