Obama, Dems eyeing strategy to defend ObamaCare

President Obama will head to Capitol Hill next week to meet with Democratic lawmakers to discuss a strategy to fight the ObamaCare repeal effort.

Obama will hold a joint meeting with House and Senate Democrats at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium. The notice for the meeting says the session is expected to last “at least one hour.”

The White House said Obama will use the meeting to “share his perspective about the dangers posed by Congressional Republicans’ stated strategy to repeal the [Affordable Care Act] 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.”

Republicans are moving forward quickly with plans to repeal ObamaCare in the new Congress. They plan to vote on a budget resolution setting in motion a fast-track process for repeal of much of the healthcare law in early January.

Still, Republicans are planning to delay the date of repeal going into effect in an effort to buy time to develop a replacement plan.Republicans do not need Democratic votes to repeal the core of the law through the special process known as reconciliation, which allows the measure to advance with a simple majority in the Senate.

Powerless against a reconciliation bill, Democrats are trying to gin up political pressure to try and stop the Republican push.

Top Democrats Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are organizing rallies against repeal for Jan. 15, and 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.

Democrats argue that Republicans should not repeal the law, even on a delay, and jeopardize healthcare for more than 20 million people until they have put forward a replacement plan.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell met with congressional Democrats on repeal earlier this month.

She distributed materials about the HHS “Coverage Matters” campaign, which features stories from ObamaCare enrollees, as well as a study from the Urban Institute showing that about 30 million people would lose coverage under repeal.

Once repeal passes, Republicans are likely to need some Democratic votes in the Senate on a replacement bill, which would require the usual 60 votes.

President-elect Trump told the Wall Street Journal after the election that he wants to keep some parts of ObamaCare: the ban on insurers denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, and allowing people to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26.

A major question for Republicans, though, is how to keep the pre-existing condition protections without ObamaCare’s mandate to get coverage, which tries to ensure that healthy people sign up and keep premiums from spiking.

Some Senate Democrats have left the door open to working on a replacement plan, though they are skeptical that Republicans will put forward a new system that would provide the same level of coverage as ObamaCare.

The debate over repeal comes on the heels of some positive news for ObamaCare.

The administration announced this month that 6.4 million people had signed up for coverage under the law by the preliminary deadline of Dec. 19, 400,000 more people than at the same point last year.

Furthermore, a report from financial analysts at S&P this month found that the finances of ObamaCare insurers are improving, an important point for the sustainability of the law’s marketplaces.

The report says the much-publicized premium hikes this year were a “one-time pricing correction” and that premium increases are likely to be smaller next year.

“For 2017, we expect continued improvement, with more insurers reporting close to break-even or better results,” the report stated.

The meeting with Obama and Democrats was first reported by Politico.

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