| WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Republican leaders in the U.S. House opened debate Tuesday on whether to repeal healthcare reform legislation enacted by Democrats in the previous session.
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The debate comes as public-opinion polls indicate less than a third of Americans support repealing the law. A repeal vote is expected Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told The Christian Science Monitor.
The debate was originally scheduled for last week and was anticipated to be highly contentious. It was postponed after the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting that killed six people and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and lawmakers have called for toned-down rhetoric in light of the tragedy.
The law the Republicans pledge to repeal or chip away at, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will require most Americans to have health insurance coverage, add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people. It regulates private insurers more closely, banning practices such as denial of care for pre-existing conditions.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected the law over 10 years would cost about $938 billion and cut the federal deficit by $138 billion. Republicans called the projections flawed.
The repeal bill, officially known as the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, is primarily symbolic, Politico said, because the GOP knows President Barack Obama would veto any wholesale repeal.
In a statement issued Tuesday by the White House, Obama said the new law provided Americans with "greater health security" but said he is "willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act."
"But we can't go backward", Obama said. "Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap, or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs."
Republicans will use "every legislative and political tool at their disposal" to stymie the law's implementation and erode public confidence in it, Politico said. For instance, Republicans said they would try to withhold money the government needs to administer and enforce the law.
Democrats argue repeal would increase the number of uninsured, let insurers increase premiums at will and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.
Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine have asked to join 20 other states in a legal challenge in Florida to the healthcare reform law, Politico reported Tuesday.
"It sends a strong message that more than half of the states consider the health care law unconstitutional and are willing to fight it in court", Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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