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Draft GOP health care bill revamps health care law

Alan Fram
Associated Press

Washington — A draft Republican bill replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law would end its Medicaid expansion, scrap fines on people not buying insurance and eliminate taxes on the medical industry and higher earners.

Instead, it would create tax credits worth up to $4,000, allow bigger contributions to personal health savings accounts and impose a new levy on health coverage some employees get at work.

The 105-page measure largely tracks talking points that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled last summer and a similar outline that GOP leaders recently gave lawmakers. The document is 2 weeks old, and GOP aides said it is subject to change.

Still, it provides some new details of Republican thinking and reaffirms others, such as blocking federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year. It also shows Republicans have begun translating their ideas into legislative language.

Though just a preliminary document, the package drew quick criticism from Democrats.

“This isn’t a replacement, it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He said it would “put insurance companies back in charge” while boosting health care costs for millions and kicking millions of others off their plans.

Congressional leaders say they want committees to write legislation reshaping the nation’s health care system in March.

According to the Republican draft, insurers could charge older customers five times more than what they charge younger ones, who are generally healthier and less costly to cover. That ratio is limited to 3-1 under Obama’s statute.

The GOP plan would end an expansion of Medicaid to people just over the poverty line that has been adopted by 31 states — many with Republican governors — and has led to coverage of 11 million additional low-income people.

The GOP proposal would also:

■Let insurers charge 30 percent higher premiums for people who have let their coverage lapse.

■Repeal taxes Obama’s law imposed to pay for its coverage expansions including on health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, investment income of higher earners and on many medical devices.

■Tax health coverage workers receive from employers exceeding a certain value.

■Scrap Obama’s requirement that insurers cover 10 kinds of services like prescription drugs and maternity care, instead letting states decide.

■End the tax penalty on larger employers who don’t offer health coverage to workers.

■Provide $100 billion over 10 years for grants to states to restrain health costs.