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Trump backs House healthcare plan, says open to negotiations

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday backed a draft Republican proposal to dismantle Obamacare that was unveiled Monday, saying the proposed healthcare legislation was “out for review and negotiation.”

Trump, in a tweet on Tuesday morning, described the bill proposed by fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives as “Our wonderful new healthcare bill.”

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The plan, released late on Monday, would undo Democratic President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, removing the penalty paid by Americans without insurance coverage and rolling back extra healthcare funding for the poor.

The plan was swiftly criticized by Democrats.

Although Obamacare has long been a common target of Republicans, the proposal also met with skepticism from some in the party who are concerned about the replacement plan’s tax credits for buying health insurance and changes to coverage under Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.

The plan must pass both the Republican-led House of Representatives as well as the Senate, where it faces a higher bar for passage, making its future uncertain.

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Trump was due to meet with the team of House lawmakers charged with tracking support for legislation later on Tuesday as lawmakers on two key House committees prepare to review the bill on Wednesday.

White House Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney, speaking in a round of television interviews on Tuesday, said he expected the plan to pass the House before lawmakers leave for recess in mid-April.

Still, Obamacare remains popular with many Americans. Some 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained coverage under the law, although higher insurance premiums have angered some. Nearly half of those gained insurance under an expansion of Medicaid, which would end in 2020 under the Republicans’ new plan, then face funding caps.

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Polls have shown most Americans want to maintain Medicaid’s expansion.

Some industry groups have also expressed concern that lawmakers are moving forward without knowing how much the new proposal will cost or how it will affect healthcare coverage. Mulvaney told CBS he expected the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the bill in a few days.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on CBS program “This Morning” that the Republican plan would take millions of people off health insurance rolls. “Show us the numbers about what the impact is personally on people,” she said.

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(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)


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Netanyahu, Gantz spur supporters on eve of tense Israeli polls

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main opponent Benny Gantz sought to galvanise supporters Monday on the eve of a tense election with the political fate of the country's longest-serving premier in the balance.

The vote on Tuesday will be Israel's second in five months after Netanyahu suffered one of the biggest defeats of his political career when he failed to form a coalition after April polls.

Opinion polls indicate another tight race that may see ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's former right-hand man who is now a rival, play a kingmaker role with his campaign to "make Israel normal again."

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Purdue files for bankruptcy in bid to settle opioid crisis cases

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Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy in a settlement agreement that it hopes will provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The pharmaceutical giant whose prescription painkiller OxyContin is blamed for much of the US opioid addiction epidemic, is facing thousands of state and federal lawsuits.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will contribute Purdue's entire value to a body established for the benefit of the claimants and the American people.

Purdue Chairman Steve Miller said the proposals will "provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis."

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US hints at military response to Saudi attacks as oil prices surge

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Oil prices made their biggest jump since the Gulf War on Monday after President Donald Trump warned that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure that Washington blamed on Iran.

It is the first time the president has hinted at a potential American military response to the drone attacks, which slashed Saudi oil production by half and led both the kingdom and the United States to announce they may tap their strategic reserves.

"Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" Trump tweeted.

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