AP sources: Hill leaders to brief lawmakers on health care

AP News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2015 12:22 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House and Senate Republicans plan to brief rank-and-file lawmakers on Wednesday on their plans should the Supreme Court erase federal subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care law, congressional aides said.

Some Republican aides said Tuesday that House and Senate leaders were working toward an agreement to temporarily continue some aid to the millions of people now receiving subsidies while curbing some requirements of the 2010 law. Others said the two chambers' leaders had no final proposals to present lawmakers and said the separate House and Senate meetings were simply designed to give GOP lawmakers status reports and get feedback.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month whether subsidies under the 2010 law can continue to go to the roughly three dozen states that use the federal HealthCare.gov website and do not run their own insurance exchanges.

The lawsuit, brought by conservatives and backed by Republicans, says the law's wording limits the aid to states operating their own insurance marketplaces. Democrats say the overall bill's context makes clear that the subsidies were designed to go to residents of every state.

In the 34 states likeliest to be hit hardest should the justices erase those subsidies, about 6.4 million people receive the aid, averaging $272 monthly, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Analysts have warned that most of those people would no longer be able to afford health coverage if the assistance was ended.

Many GOP leaders want to temporarily continue some form of aid but also pare back Obama's law, including ending its requirements that most people buy coverage and most companies provide it to workers. They would also give states more power to decide what types of coverage insurers must provide.

The health law's subsidies are currently paid to recipients as tax credits. Two aides said under House Republican plans, states next year would be given federal block grants for aid programs they could establish, in amounts comparable to the tax credits people in each state would have received.

Such legislation would all but certainly draw solid Democratic opposition and a veto from the president, should the GOP garner enough votes to send it to him. Republicans have so far been divided over what their response to the lawsuit should be, including some conservatives who say the statute's subsidies should be completely ended and the law dismantled.

Many Republicans say since Obama would not let them kill his law, a complete overhaul will have to await the 2016 elections, when the GOP hopes to capture the White House and retain congressional control.

Donald Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said GOP leaders have been working toward "a responsible approach to protect families" from the health care law. He said the meeting with Republican senators would be "the latest in a series of briefings with our members."

Several other Republican aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

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AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.