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Utah Lawmakers Firm On Repealing Obamacare, Fuzzy On Replacement

Alexa Ard

Ask any member of Utah’s congressional delegation what should happen to the Affordable Care Act next year and you’ll likely get an answer similar to this one by Rep. Jason Chaffetz.


“I wholly support the idea it needs to be repealed. ...And it’s probably the very first thing that the Congress will do when we go back into session on January 3," he said during a press conference hosted by KUED earlier this month.


President-elect Donald Trump and GOP leaders have pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care law. But what’s not as clear is what will take its place.


Chaffetz, like other Utah lawmakers, are advocating a repeal and delay strategy as they formulate a replacement.



Republican lawmakers, including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, have floated proposals but have yet to coalesce around a singular plan.


Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan and expert on the health care law, says that’s a problem because the insurance industry is likely to react negatively to any wholesale changes to the current system.


“Insurance markets themselves are likely to collapse, and at that point, making any kind of deal will be excruciatingly difficult politically because it will just be chaos in the insurance markets,” he says.


Hatch and Chaffetz say they want to preserve the most popular provisions of the health law, such as keeping children on their parents’ plans until 26 and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on prior medical history.


But Bagley calls this a piecemeal approach that won’t work without the individual mandate, which keeps healthy people in the marketplace.


“The replacement plans are still very much in the white paper phase; they’re still on the drawing board. And none of them are actually concrete, and none of them have passed through the crucible of the legislative process,” he says. “And none of them will for several years.”


Despite the likelihood of repeal, more than 90,000 Utahns signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the most recent enrollment period, the largest increase of any state in the country.



Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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