In a telephone interview before an appearance Thursday in Dayton, the Ohio Democrat acknowledged that "there are things to fix" in Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, such as stabilizing the marketplaces established by the law where middle-income Americans buy federally subsidized individual insurance plans.
"I didn't say it was perfect," Brown said. "Every time government has done something big — such as when Richard Nixon created the EPA, Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security and Lyndon Johnson created Medicare — we came back four or five years later to make adjustments, minor or major."
In an off-hand manner, Brown said that he, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana "could write a bill that would make positive changes."
But Brown warned that "none of the Democrats are willing to do a huge tax cut," for wealthier people, saying emphatically "that is off the table."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded last month the Senate GOP plan would cut federal taxes by $750 billion during the next decade, including eliminating a 3.8 percent surcharge paid by wealthy Americans on capital gains, which are the profits from the sale of stocks and real estate.
Brown made his comments the same day that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said if Republicans are "unable to agree on an adequate replacement" for Obamacare, then "some kind of action with regard to the private health-insurance market must occur."
"No action is not an alternative," McConnell said at a Rotary Club event in Kentucky. "We've got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state."
McConnell's comments were a warning to his 51 GOP colleagues that if they do not pass a sweeping revision of Obamacare, he would open talks with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to devise a more limited bill aimed at simply stabilizing the law's marketplaces, known as exchanges.
In a statement, Schumer said it was "encouraging" that McConnell "acknowledged that the issues with the exchanges are fixable, and opened the door to bipartisan solutions to improve our health care system. As we've said time and time again, Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law."
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Obamacare helped reduce the number of people without health coverage in two ways. Families of four earning between $34,000 and $98,400 a year can receive federal tax credits to buy individual insurance policies through the exchanges.
In addition, the law expanded eligibility for Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that pays health-care costs of low-income people. The federal government provided billions of dollars to the states to, for example, cover a family of four earning as much as $33,948 a year, which is 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Gov. John Kasich accepted the federal dollars to provide health coverage to more than 700,000 people in Ohio.
Up until this week, McConnell had pushed for passage of a bill that would end the expanded Medicaid program by 2024, provoking protests from Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. The bill also would scrap fines imposed on people who refused to buy their own policies in the individual market.
But McConnell left open the possibility Thursday that the Senate may keep expanded Medicaid and focus solely on the individual markets, a move likely to provoke sharp objections from conservatives who want a major overhaul of Medicaid.
©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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