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Healthcare Bill retains tax on wealthy, divisions remain

Reuters / 14 Jul 17 | 02:01 AM

US President Donald Trump at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington

Senate Republican leaders, aiming to salvage efforts backed by President Donald Trump to dismantle the Obamacare law, on Thursday unveiled revised healthcare legislation that lets insurers sell bare-bones policies and retains key taxes on the wealthy.’

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US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known as a skillful tactician, released the updated legislation in a bid to unite disparate Republican factions and make good on his party's seven-year mission to gut Democratic Former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement. The proposal replaces an earlier one that deeply divided Trump's fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, drawing opposition from both moderates and hard-line conservatives. McConnell has planned for a vote on the new bill next week.


The revised plan included conservative Senator Ted Cruz's proposal to let insurers offer stripped-down, low-cost healthcare plans that do not comply with Obamacare regulations to cover certain health benefits. Those benefits include maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, outpatient care, hospitalisation, emergency room visits and prescription drugs.


Insurer groups, including the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, have derided these "skinny plans," saying they would raise insurance premiums, destabilize the individual insurance market and undermine protections for pre-existing medical conditions.


The legislation retained two taxes on the wealthy that helped pay for the Obamacare law. They are: a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000; and an 0.9 percent surtax for the Medicare insurance program for the elderly on people with those incomes.


The bill retained the previous draft bill's phaseout of the Obamacare expansion of the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor and disabled and sharp cuts to federal Medicaid spending beginning in 2025. Like the earlier version, it would repeal certain Obamacare taxes, end a penalty on individuals who do not obtain insurance and overhaul Obamacare subsidies to help people buy insurance with tax credits.

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