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U.S. House Republican optimistic about Obamacare replacement plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Republicans believe they can replace Obamacare with their own healthcare reforms, if the Supreme Court strikes down a key segment of the current healthcare law in a ruling expected in June, a senior U.S. lawmaker said on Monday.

Representative Tom Price, Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, told a conservative forum that the high court’s anticipated ruling in the case known as King v. Burwell could cause President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy to unravel quickly.

“We need to be ready, willing and able to move forward,” said Price, a leading Obamacare critic who replaced Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan as House Budget Committee chairman earlier this year.

“We believe we are going to get to that point. I believe the president is actually going to be open to a better way,” he added.

The White House had no immediate comment on Price’s remarks.

At issue in King v. Burwell is whether federal subsidies to help people pay for health insurance should be available through a federal insurance marketplace that serves 36 states. Plaintiffs contend that the law provides subsidies only through insurance marketplaces set up by individual states.

If the high court decides that subsidies should not be available through the federal marketplace, coverage costs would rise sharply and more than 8 million people would lose health insurance, according to a recent study by the nonprofit Urban Institute.

“It’s not a good thing to not have any replacement, not to have any solution ready and available for Congress to act upon,” Price said.

Up to now, Republicans have not come up with their own replacement for Obamacare because of disagreements over the government role in healthcare. Until the Supreme Court decided to take up King v. Burwell late last year, party leaders seemed content to leave the issue to the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

Congressional aides say the prospect for an Obamacare replacement plan will be discussed later this week at a Republican retreat for House and Senate lawmakers.

Price gave no details but said any plan would need to be based on the principles of “accessibility, affordability, quality and choice.”

“If you accept those principles … then you pretty much have a clear path to what the policies would be,” he said. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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