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U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) joins House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), to speak to reporters after meeting with the Republican House caucus at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) joins House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), to speak to reporters after meeting with the Republican House caucus at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Battlelines Drawn as GOP Readies 'To Make America Sick Again'

Opposing efforts on Capitol Hill target Obamacare, which Republicans have long targeted

Republicans, "beside themselves" with excitement over their new power in Congress and, in less than three weeks, the White House, announced on Wednesday their plans for a swift attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.

Repealing the ACA, said Vice President-elect Mike Pence after meeting with House Republicans, will be the incoming administration's "first order of business," with a goal of getting legislation to President-elect Donald Trump by Feb. 20. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also spoke at the news conference, and said that the program, which allowed over 20 million Americans to gain health insurance coverage, "is a story of broken promise after broken promise after broken promise."

The Senate on Wednesday also voted "to take the first official step toward repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law," as CNN reports. The chamber "voted 51-48 Wednesday to begin debating a budget that, once approved, will prevent Democrats from using a filibuster to block future Republican legislation to scuttle the healthcare law," the Associated Press adds.

As expected, Obama on Wednesday also went to Capitol Hill where he held a closed door meeting with Democrats to urge them to fight against Republican efforts to repeal the law and instead "look out for the American people."

"I think the president made a strong point that the individual provisions of the Affordable Care Act are popular and that we know we're right on policy and we have to be able to get this message out to the American people," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) following the meeting, The Hill reports. Added Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer: "They want to repeal it and then try to hang it on us. Not going to happen. It's their responsibility, plain and simple." 

The Republican attack on the ACA, along with planned assaults on Medicare and Medicaid, "would make America sick again and lead to chaos instead of affordable care," Schumer said, invoking Trump's campaign slogan.

The Guardian writes: "The dueling events on Capitol Hill illustrated the high stakes over healthcare reform, seen as Obama’s proudest domestic policy achievement but now facing demolition by a unified Republican government."

DNC chair hopeful Keith Ellison, meanwhile, used his Twitter platform to denounce the Republican attacks on the healthcare program in a series of tweets, saying that the party is "playing politics with your health."

Trump, for his part, also took to Twitter, where he "warned fellow Republicans to not fall into the trap of taking ownership of the health law's shortcomings and cautioned them 'don't let the Schumer clowns out of this mess,'" as Politico reported:

"Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster, with its poor coverage and massive premium the 116% hike in Arizona,” Trump tweeted, adding, “Also, deductibles are so high that it is practically useless. Don't let the Schumer clowns out of this web...massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight - be careful!"

While Ryan said "We have a plan" to replace the ACA, it's not clear what that is, thus asks Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.):

Does your replacement plan for the ACA protect Americans from being denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like cancer, cystic fibrous or diabetes? Will our sex go back to being a pre-existing condition for me and America’s other 126 million women?

What about the removal of lifetime caps on care for Americans living with dementia or tuberous sclerosis? Will insurance companies be allowed to stop care at some point?

In the same vein, we added rules preventing health insurers from discriminating. Are you planning to keep that or will you allow corporate executives to decide who is allowed to have coverage?

Meanwhile, advocates for a Medicare-for-all healthcare system argue that the focus should not be about keeping or repealing Obamacare.

According to Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program, "the debate should be over whether we continue to tolerate our overpriced system that leaves so many out, when we can adopt a proven health care financing system that makes health care truly accessible and affordable for everyone. That, of course, would be a single payer national health program—an improved Medicare that covers everyone.

"Do we simply continue to debate tweaks to a system in shambles, or are we finally going to fix it with an equitable system that actually covers everyone while containing costs through the beneficial tools of public financing and public administration?"

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