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US House Republicans unveil plan to repeal and replace Obamacare

The Republican Party has unveiled legislation intended to repeal and replace much of Barack Obama's flagship healthcare reforms. Medicaid coverage and federal funding for Planned Parenthood are among the things affected.

Republican members of the US House of Representatives unveiled on Monday the American Health Care Act, which would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which has long been controversial among those on the right.

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US Congress moves to dismantle 'Obamacare'

The draft legislation calls for freezing enrollment in Obamacare's expanded Medicaid program, which provided more than 11 million people with access to medical care they otherwise couldn't afford. The freeze would go into effect on January 1, 2020. States that expanded Medicaid could continue enrolling people until the end of 2019.

The bill would also end the requirement for individuals to have insurance, as well as most Obamacare-levied taxes. It would also offer age-based refundable tax credits, which would be capped at upper-income levels.

"After years of Obamacare's broken promises, House Republicans today took an important step," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden said in a statement. "Simply put, we have a better way to deliver solutions that put patients - not bureaucrats - first, and we are moving forward united in our efforts to rescue the American people from the mess Obamacare has created."

Replacement plan proves controversial

Obamacare has drawn fire from Republicans since passing into law in 2010 under President Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress. While Republicans argue that insurance premiums have spiked and has resulted in job losses for many Americans, the bill has also been credited with helping 20 million people acquire health coverage.

The new legislation does however retain two popular elements of Obamacare: prohibiting health insurance providers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing offspring to remain on their parents' health plan until age 26.

Repealing Obamacare was one of President Donald Trump's key campaign promises. But his replacement plan has proven controversial with some Republicans, who have argued that the tax credits are just a reworked version of Obamacare's subsidies.

It's not immediately clear if the bill has enough support to pass the Republican-controlled Congress. It will next be reviewed by two House committees.

blc/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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