On Wednesday, three top Republican lawmakers outlined their proposal for a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton and Senator Richard Burr presented their plan, which will compete with other Obamacare alternatives over the next several months. Titled the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, the plan would allow for those unable to afford health insurance to opt out of buying it, and would no longer require employers to offer it.
“Under our plan, every American will be able to access a health plan, but no American is forced to have health insurance they do not want,” the members said. The plan, while largely a total alternative to Obamacare, would keep two of Obamacare's most popular provisions – a rule that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26 and one that protect those with preexisting conditions.
“We agree we can’t return to the status quo of the pre-Obamacare world, so we equip patients with tools that will drive down costs while also ensuring those with pre-existing conditions and the young are protected,” Hatch said in a statement.
The senators’ plan would also significantly restructure funding for state Medicaid programs.
“We can lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering individuals and their families to make their own healthcare decisions, rather than having the federal government make those decisions for them,” Burr said.
Critics of new Obamacare alternatives said that such plans would likely force millions of people who purchased healthcare under the Affordable Care act out of their current plans.
“The plan would likely disrupt existing health insurance coverage — through Medicaid, the marketplaces and employer-sponsored insurance — for millions of people while making it much more difficult for millions more who are without health insurance today to gain it in coming years,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities healthcare analyst Edwin Park wrote in a report on a similar plan last year.
The unveiling comes as the Republican Party began garnering criticism for lacking a plan to replace Obamacare following last week’s House vote to repeal it. “There will be an alternative, and you will get to see it,” House Speaker John Boehner told Fox News last week, adding that the three House Committees in charge of overseeing healthcare were “working together to craft, what we believe, what would be a better approach with regard to healthcare for the American people.”