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Replacement needs to be better than ACA

The Republican-led Congress on Tuesday took initial steps toward repealing "Obamacare."

After a resolution to repeal was introduced in the Senate, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that representatives would begin "passing the legislative tools that are necessary" to kill the health-insurance program. Ryan contended that "repeal is relief" for Americans purchasing private health-care coverage, most often with income-based government subsidies, under the law.

No one maintains that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the insurance exchanges it produced are flawless. The system rollout was a mess, President Barack Obama's promise that Americans would keep their health care if they liked it was undermined by cancellation notices, and a number of private insurers pulled out of the program.

Yet, nationwide, some 20 million Americans have gained access to insurance coverage since the ACA's inception, no small matter. Enrollment in Obamacare in 2016 was on pace with signups in the previous year.

As the chief executive of Florida Blue and GuideWell wrote in a Herald-Tribune guest column in early December, almost 2 million Floridians have obtained coverage as a result of the ACA, with about 90 percent of them receiving federal subsidies to make premiums affordable.

What's more, the chief executive wrote: "During the week following the [Nov. 8] election, Florida Blue saw a 70 percent increase in enrollment submissions compared with the same period last year. Additionally, during the two weeks after the election, more than 26,000 Florida residents visited one of our Florida Blue Centers. Floridians understand the importance and value of having health insurance, and they are taking action to obtain coverage."

We hope members of Congress do, too, and believe the assertion that "repeal is relief" should not go uncontested.

Of course, Florida Blue has a business interest in gaining access to subsidized clients. But the value - to individuals, communities and the United States - of steadily increasing the percentage of Americans with good, affordable health insurance cannot be underestimated.

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