Republican candidates dial back criticism of the Affordable Care Act

By Annette M. Boyle

Though the Affordable Care Act remains a highly partisan issue, overturning it does not appear to be a top priority for most Senate Republicans in tight races or for two of the three Republican presidential candidates, according to the New York Times.

Gov. John Kasich expanded Medicaid coverage under the law in Ohio and Donald Trump has sometimes supported the central mandate to obtain health insurance, even as he has proposed an alternative healthcare policy plan. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) claims the ACA is "the biggest job killer in this country," although, as the Times points out, the economy has added 13.7 million jobs since the legislation was passed.

Most Republicans now insist that they would retain key provisions on the law, such as guaranteed coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, according to the article.

The unwillingness to repeal the ACA in its entirety indicates that the law has become part of "the fabric of the nation," as Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in the article. About 20 million more Americans have obtained health insurance since the ACA passed in 2010. Medicaid has expanded in 31 states and the District of Columbia under the law, ensuring a larger percentage of low-income individuals are covered.

However, Burwell told the Times that a few health insurance markets are still struggling and that the law could use some "technical fixes." In addition, insurance premiums rose sharply this year, and many southern and Midwestern states have not expanded Medicaid coverage.

Even the Democrats running for president see the need for some improvements to the ACA. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders supports a single-payer system to expand coverage to all Americans, while Hillary Clinton would focus on tweaking the existing law.

Whoever wins the election will certainly make changes to the law, notes the article, but, at least for now, few candidates seem eager to support plans that would cause millions of newly insured people to lose coverage.

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