Vice President Mike Pence delivered a strong endorsement Saturday morning of the GOP's replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, which was introduced earlier in the week by House Republican leadership and supported by President Donald Trump.
Pence, who spoke to constitutents in Kentucky, highlighted some of the pitfalls of Obamacare, including rising premiums and a lack of carrier options.
"The Obamacare nightmare is about to end," Pence said as he kicked off his address. He went on to outline some of the bill's primary proposals, such as expanding health savings accounts, providing tax credits to individuals to go towards their healthcare costs, and repealing the individual and employer mandate.
He also underscored two popular Obamacare conditions the GOP intends to keep in its replacement plan: the pre-existing conditions mandate, and the stipulation that allows children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until the age of 26.
However, under the GOP's new plan, while insurance companies would not be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, it would penalize lapses in coverage with a premium hike of 30% as a means to discourage people from waiting until they are sick to purchase health insurance.
Pence spoke at length about reforming Medicaid as it currently stands. The GOP's replacement bill includes Medicaid block grants and would also kick lottery winners off the Medicaid program. It would also give place Medicaid regulation largely in the hands of individual states.
"We'll give states like Kentucky the freedom and flexibility with Medicaid to meet the needs of your most vulnerable in the way that works here in Kentucky," Pence said. He added that the bill would give states the chance to reform and regulate Medicaid so that it would "better serve the underprivileged" in each state.
According to a poll released in February by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy organization, majority of Americans support the Medicaid expansion implemented by the ACA.
65% of Americans surveyed in the poll said that Medicaid, the government-run health program, should continue largely as it exists today, despite Republican proposals to change the program.
Under the ACA, Medicaid became available to more than 11 million new people than it was available to before, and states who adopted the Medicaid expansion received federal funds to assist with the program.
"Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky, it's failed the people of America, and Obamacare must go," Pence concluded.
Pence's pitch to Kentucky came on the heels of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's forceful rebuke of the replacement bill, which he and other conservatives argue doesn't go far enough to repeal the ACA.
"House leadership plan is Obamacare Lite," Paul tweeted. "It will not pass. Conservatives are not going to take it."
Sen. Paul, who has been a staunch opponent of the ACA since its implementation and has worked to repeal it multiple times in the past, is against the provision of tax credits, as well as the few ACA stipulations the GOP's proposal leaves in place.
Sen. Paul and members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus announced earlier in the week that they would be introducing legislation that would repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
After Sen. Paul and other congressional Republicans spoke out against the GOP's replacement bill, Trump tweeted, "I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!"
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