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US House Speaker Ryan says Obamacare replacement plan coming next year

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday that Republicans nextyear will unveil a plan to replace President Barack Obama's national healthcare program, widely known as Obamacare, in its entirety as part of a "pro-growth" Rep...

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U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) delivers a policy address from the Great Hall at the Library of Congress in Washington December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday that Republicans nextyear will unveil a plan to replace President Barack Obama's national healthcare program, widely known as Obamacare, in its entirety as part of a "pro-growth" Republican alternative to Democratic policies.

"Next year, we are going to unveil a plan to replace every word of Obamacare," Ryan said in a speech at the Library of Congress, which his office billed as his first major address as Speaker, a job he has held for just over a month.

Ryan acknowledged there was a limit to what a Republican majority in Congress can accomplish while there is a Democrat in the White House, as Obama will be until January 2017.

But the House Speaker said Republicans must nonetheless offer ideas that would demonstrate "what our ideal policy would be looking forward to 2017 and beyond."

The most urgently needed action, Ryan said, was to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is officially called. He also called for simplifying the tax code, reforming the Pentagon and cutting back welfare programs.

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Republicans have been vowing for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the president's signature policy achievement that Democrats passed in 2010 over united Republican opposition. Democrats say the act is insuring more Americans and helping to slow the growth in healthcare spending.

Republicans have never been able to agree on a replacement plan. But Ryan said one idea was to offer an individual tax credit to help people pay for health insurance premiums.

He also said he favored simplifying the U.S. tax code by taking the seven income tax rates that exist now and collapsing them to two or three.

While he said Medicare and Social Security "will be there when you need them," Ryan also suggested a revamp of safety net programs. He said programs like Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance were trapping people in poverty.

"In 1996, we created a work requirement for welfare. But that was just one program. We have to fix all the others now. I'd combine a lot of them and send that money back to the states for better poverty-fighting solutions. Require everyone who can to work," Ryan said.

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