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Republicans tweak Obamacare bill as Trump moves to promote overhaul

Washington, March 21 (Reuters) Congressional Republicans recrafted their Obamacare replacement bill in hopes of satisfying critics as US President Donald Trump prepared to promote his first major legislative initiative on Capitol Hill.
In a sign of deepening concern among Republicans about the bill's future, Trump will speak to the party's lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday about the healthcare overhaul, two House Republican aides said.
According to a Republican source who asked not to be identified, House leaders will propose an $85 billion fund for tax credits to help people aged 50-64 get health insurance.
However, the Politico newspaper reported that the matter would be handled in an unusual way: instead of establishing the fund in the House of Representatives bill, the Senate would be instructed to do so when it takes up the Republican healthcare legislation.
Earlier on Monday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady told reporters that new language was expected on taxes and Medicaid provisions in an effort to move the bill to the floor of the House by Thursday.
"Later today, we will release some technical and policy changes that further strengthen the bill," Brady said of planned changes to treatment of Obamacare taxes, optional work requirements for Medicaid and an option for states to accept Medicaid funding as a block grant.
Trump met House Speaker Paul Ryan, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Zeke Emanuel, an architect of former Democratic President Barack Obama's healthcare law, at the White House on Monday to discuss the issue.
At a rally in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday night, Trump said he wanted to add a provision to the bill that aims to lower prescription drug costs through a "competitive bidding process."
"We're trying to add it to this bill and if we can't, we'll have it right after," he said. During the presidential campaign, Trump called for allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, something the law currently prohibits.
The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the original House Republican bill a week ago severely damaged its prospects. It said 14 million people would lose health coverage under the measure over the next year.
Republicans are divided over the plan, with Senate moderates concerned it goes too far and House conservatives saying it does not go far enough.
Two parts of the plan face resistance among Republicans: a proposal to end enrollment in Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid in 2020, and provisions to change eligibility for tax subsidies for individuals to buy health insurance.
Democrats oppose the Republicans' plan, which they say would throw millions off health insurance and hurt the elderly, poor and working families while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.
Democrats as well as hospitals and insurers have urged Republicans to consider how their plan would affect access to healthcare for the 20 million people insured by Obamacare.
REUTERS RSD 0802
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