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Republicans outline their latest strategy to roll back Obamacare

Republicans outline their latest strategy to roll back Obamacare
Conservative activists are making a new push to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. (Getty Images)

In a bid to revive the Republican effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act, a group of leading conservative healthcare advocates is proposing a new strategy to overhaul the law.

The plan -- which is outlined in a seven-page blueprint unveiled Tuesday – faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders remain wary of reopening the healthcare debate after last year’s failed repeal efforts embarrassed the party and fueled a broad public backlash.

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But the new call for a repeal push underscores how committed many Republicans remain to scrapping the 2010 law, often called Obamacare.

And the plan’s recommendations may serve as a guidepost for GOP lawmakers next year, should the party retain control of the House and Senate after this fall’s midterm elections.

“It’s time that Congress provided relief from Obamacare’s higher costs and reduced choices,” notes the report, titled “The Health Care Choices Proposal.”

The report’s authors, from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks, said they hope GOP lawmakers will pass legislation before the election. Rallying anti-Obamacare sentiments has long been an effective GOP campaign slogan and some conservatives are eager to show supporters that they have not given up on repealing the law.

The core of the new plan is a proposal to shift hundreds of billions of dollars provided by the healthcare law to expand coverage into block grants to states. A similar concept was rejected by Congress last year.

The new approach would scrap many of the current law’s insurance protections, including its system of guaranteeing coverage to low-income Americans through either Medicaid or subsidized commercial insurance.

“The proposal would repeal the individual entitlement to premium and cost-sharing reduction subsidies and Medicaid expansion,” note the authors.

With the block grant of federal funds, states could craft their own systems for providing coverage, though with several requirements.

These include a mandate that at least half of the money be used to help low-income people and that half be used for commercial health insurance, rather than a government program. These two pots of money overlap.

This kind of block grant concept had long been popular with conservatives. And this proposal will likely earn praise from many on the right.

This week, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, both conservative Republicans, will be discussing the plan at a gathering in Washington.

But Republicans risk a major backlash if they restart their repeal push, as polls show Americans are increasingly supportive of the healthcare law’s protections.

Democrats and many healthcare activists are already stepping up efforts to make the GOP efforts to roll back the healthcare law’s protections a major campaign issue this fall.

And on Tuesday, Protect Our Care, an advocacy organization formed to defend the law, announced a new campaign the group said would “warn Americans about escalating Republican attacks on Affordable Care Act-guaranteed protections for over 130 million Americans with preexisting [medical] conditions.”

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This new conservative proposal leaves out crucial details about how such a proposal would work, including how the formula for allocating money to states would be structured.

Authors of the report said they would let lawmakers on Capitol Hill work that out.

The new blueprint sidesteps at least one major issue that helped bring down the GOP repeal campaign last year.

Many of the repeal proposals envisioned not only rolling back the current law but restricting federal funding for the entire Medicaid program, which covers more than 70 million low-income Americans.

This proposal would only restructure the additional Medicaid funding made available through the 2010 law, leaving the rest of the half-century-old program alone.

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