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Repealing Obamacare when Congress reconvenes next week is a top priority for Republican lawmakers. (Photo: Ted Eytan/flickr/cc)

President to Help Dem Lawmakers Strategize on Saving Obamacare

Wednesday's meeting between Obama and congressional Democrats will come ahead of a nationwide campaign to highlight the benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Deirdre Fulton

Aiming to stave off Republican efforts to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) upon returning to Capitol Hill next week, President Barack Obama will meet with congressional Democrats on Wednesday morning for an urgent strategy session.

The January 4 meeting in the Congressional Visitors Center auditorium was called in a notice sent to lawmakers on Friday; it will reportedly last for "at least one hour."

A White House official said Obama will use the meeting to "share his perspective about the dangers posed by Congressional Republicans' stated strategy to repeal the ACA before proposing any replacement, creating chaos in the health system in the short run—and holding hostage Americans' health care—while Republicans develop their plan."

As Common Dreams reported last month, repealing the healthcare law could "spook" insurers and prompt them to leave the market early to avoid losses—leading to uncertainty and coverage losses for millions of consumers.

GOP leaders have said repealing the ACA, also known as Obamacare, will be their first order of business once new members are sworn in next week.

However, as Bloomberg reported Friday, "the euphoria of finally acting on a long-sought goal will quickly give way to the reality that Republicans—and President-elect Donald Trump—have no agreement thus far on how to replace coverage for about 20 million people who gained insurance under the healthcare law."

Still, the Huffington Post reports:

As for what guidance Obama may be able to give congressional Democrats about how to stop, or even influence the direction of, the GOP's repeal-and-delay strategy, that isn't easy to imagine.

Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Democrats have virtually no tools at their disposal to alter the House's direction on healthcare. And in the Senate, Republicans plan to use the budget reconciliation mechanism—which allows a measure to pass with a simple majority and can't be filibustered—to knock out the biggest parts of the Affordable Care Act early next year.

[...Repeal opponents'] best hope is that Senate Democrats can use their sizable minority to obstruct GOP health proposals over the next few years and to exert pressure on Republican senators who, looking to their own re-election chances, have concerns about the disruption that would be caused by repealing most of Obamacare without a "replacement" for three to four years.

The meeting with Obama will come ahead of Democrats' planned campaign to highlight the benefits of the ACA, which recently saw a record number of new enrollments. Nationwide events are planned for both January 7 and 15 to gird against the GOP's proposed gutting of critical safety net programs including Obamacare. The Hill also notes that "pro-Obamacare groups have launched ads in states with Republican senators that they think are most likely to be swayed. Those states include Arizona and Nevada, home to the two 2018 Senate races where Democrats are seen as having some chance of picking up a seat."

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