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Republicans’ Obamacare plan would dump Medicaid expansion, taxes

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After months of internal discord, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday were still trying to craft a bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, a law they have been attacking since it was enacted in 2010.

Two attempts in recent weeks to pass an overhaul bill have collapsed in confusion, with conservatives pushing for a more complete repeal and moderates keen to avoid going too far for fear of angering their constituents.

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Obamacare brought health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. The first version of the Republican bill, known as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, would have left 24 million more Americans without coverage, according to an estimate by nonpartisan congressional researchers.

The House has recently added two amendments to the AHCA to try to appease both conservatives and moderates. Here are the latest versions of the bill’s main provisions:

COVERAGE

The Republican plan would maintain some of Obamacare’s most popular provisions. It would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26 and it would ban insurers from setting a lifetime dollar limit on coverage.

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An amendment introduced by moderate Republican Representative Tom MacArthur would let states opt out of Obamacare’s mandate that insurers charge sick and healthy people the same rates. It would also allow states to opt out of Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care and mental health treatment.

The measure would provide states with $100 billion, largely to fund high-risk pools to provide insurance to the sickest patients. An amendment added Wednesday would provide another $8 billion over five years to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for health insurance.

The bill would let insurers mark up premiums by 30 percent for those who have a lapse in insurance coverage of about two months or more.

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Insurers won another provision they had long sought: The ability to charge older Americans up to five times more than young people. Under Obamacare, they could only charge up to three times more.

TAX

The Republicans want to end in 2018 Obamacare’s income-based tax credits that help low-income people buy insurance. These would be replaced with age-based tax credits ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 per year that would be capped at upper-income levels. While Obamacare’s credits gave more help to those with lower incomes, the Republican plan would be largely age-based.

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The Republican bill would abolish most Obamacare taxes, including on medical devices, health insurance premiums, indoor tanning salons, prescription medications and high-cost employer-provided insurance known as “Cadillac” plans.

Those taxes paid for Obamacare. Republicans have not said how they would pay for the parts of the law they want to keep.

The bill would also repeal the Obamacare financial penalty for the 2016 tax year for not purchasing insurance, as well as a surtax on investment income earned by upper-income Americans.

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It would repeal the mandate that larger employers must offer insurance to their employees.

MEDICAID

Under Obamacare, more than 30 states, including about a dozen Republican states, expanded the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor. About half of Obamacare enrollees obtained insurance through the expansion.

The bill would allow the Medicaid expansion to continue until January 1, 2020, providing states chose not to expand. After that date, expansion would end and Medicaid funding would be capped on a per-person basis.

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State Medicaid plans would no longer have to cover some Obamacare-mandated essential health benefits, fulfilling a Republican promise to return more control to the states.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)


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Trump lashes out at Lindsey Graham after he accuses the president of showing ‘weakness’

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President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, once bitter enemies, have become close allies since the 2016 election as the South Carolina Republican realized it was in his personal interest to cozy up to the White House. But on Tuesday, fractures emerged between the two in public over a key issue for Graham: Iran.

Graham is on the severely hawkish wing of the Republican Party, and he clearly wants a war with Iran. He began a series of tweets Tuesday by praising Vice President Mike Pence’s briefing that day about the recent attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, saying he believes that “such a sophisticated attack could not have occurred without Iran’s blessing and direct involvement.” He called it an “an act of war” and lauded the Trump administration’s “efforts to create a regional coalition, thoroughly brief the Congress on the actions taken, and come up with a plan of action to restore deterrence against an evil regime in Iran.”

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Rick Santorum rips into Corey Lewandowski’s ‘flippant’ admission that he’s happy to lie to the media

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During his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski — who was hoping to leverage his appearance trashing Democrats and the Russia investigation for a Senate run in New Hampshire — was forced to admit that he constantly lies on air.

On CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," even former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), a staunch defender of the president, was aghast at this.

"Senator, isn't it kind of a weird way to run for Senate by admitting that you're happy to lie to the American people?" asked Cooper. "I know he was phrasing it as lying to the media, lying to reporters, but, you know, it's not as if — the end result is you're lying to the American people. You are giving people false information. And you're fine with that? You have no moral problem with that?"

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Right-wingers have a full-blown freakout over Kavanaugh revelations — and it could blow up in their faces

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Do Republicans think “men are the real victims of sexism” is a winning argument going into the 2020 election? That sounds preposterous, but there are strong indications that Donald Trump and other leading Republicans believe they can win by feeding a “victim mentality” in men, a mentality they otherwise tend to decry when detected in actual victims.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article by the authors of a new book about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, introducing more corroborating evidence for claims that Kavanaugh had a history throughout high school and college of getting trashed and then sexually abusing his female classmates. That story, almost a year after Kavanaugh’s momentous confirmation hearings, was interesting further evidence that Kavanaugh likely perjured himself before the Senate. Ultimately, it doesn’t really change anything, since there’s little reason to believe that anyone actually believed Kavanaugh was telling the truth at the time.

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