Senate Republicans one step closer to repealing and replacing Obamacare

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( – “[W]hen we come back January 3rd, we’ll be moving to the Obamacare replacement resolution. The Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item up in the new year,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday.

Sen. John Thune, the chair of the Senate Republican Conference, explained how the process will work:

“And what we intend to do by repealing Obamacare is to start to repair the damage that’s been done to families and businesses as a result of its enactment.

“And then, after we have done that, we will go about the process of replacing in a step-by-step way the — the Obamacare provisions that we think have caused the most damage and put in place reforms that we think will really work, and those reforms will be built around four basic principles.”

Thune said Republicans want the states rather than the federal government “to have more control” over the health care issues that affect people.

“Secondly, there ought to be more patients and doctors who are in control. Third, that there ought to be a patient-centered choice involved in this. In other words, more competition that gives — gives people in this country more choices.”

Thune also said small businesses need “flexibility.” “Right now, small businesses, they basically have been told this is what you have to offer, or else. And so that’s where this is going to start.”

Thune said Republicans believe momentum is building for repeal and replace: “And I’m hopeful that we’ll have both Democrats and Republicans, our colleagues in the House and here in the Senate and the president-elect and his team working together in a way that moves us in a better direction and gives people in this country more choices, more competition and more access to health care at a more affordable cost.”

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in addition to the “two-step process of repealing Obamacare,” Republicans want to reconsider “all the alternatives” that were raised in 2009 and 2010,but were rejected as non-starters by the Obama administration.

“There were lots of other ideas,” Blunt said. “This gives us a chance to revisit those ideas.”

Blunt said he expects debates on alternative ideas to happen one at a time. “I don’t think there will be a 1,500-page replacement for this 2,700-page failure,” he said. “But debating individual things, reaching a consensus, reaching across the aisle for that consensus to develop so that once again we’re focusing on families and doctor-patient relationships, provider-patient relationships.”

Blunt said he will be a leading advocate for Rep. Tim Price (R-Ga.), who is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Health and Human Services Department. Price “is the best person we could find to lead that discussion from the administration point of view,” Blunt said.

McConnell agreed there will be “challenges” in getting enough Democrat support to replace sections of the law. But he said Republicans, who now control the House, Senate and Executive branch, “have an obligation to the American people to change it and to do a better job. And if we can get Democratic cooperation in doing that, that would great.”