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US Sen. Blunt softens stance on repealing health-care law after years of condemnation

File photo | Chris McDaniel | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, softened his stance on the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt for years wasn’t shy about his disdain for the Affordable Care Act, condemning it on the Senate floor, in town hall meetings and during interviews.

Then came Tuesday, when the Republican said fixing President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law doesn’t hinge on whether Congress takes action this week to do away with it entirely.

“Well, I think there’s a number of things that can be done without the repeal-and-replace legislation,” Blunt told reporters in during a conference call. “I am for the concept of ‘Let’s get moving here as quickly as we can,” but through administrative, not legislative, actions.

He did not, however, go so far as to take a position on the measure, for which House Republicans are trying to win support.

It’s been an uphill battle in Washington, though, as a few GOP colleagues, including U.S. Rep. Billy Long from Springfield, have turned against the sweeping proposal due to a provision that would allow governors to waive protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Blunt’s suggestion is to let federal health officials use existing ACA provisions to give states more flexibility in providing cheaper insurance and to make it easier for workers to obtain health insurance through their jobs.

He also said Tuesday that he’s concerned about the ACA’s viability due to many rural Missouri residents having only one insurance option on the online marketplace, making it more expensive.

Blunt has been a vocal critic of the law since the majority-Democrat Congress passed it in 2010. But Blunt also has noted his support for certain provisions, such as allowing young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their families’ health care plans.

Later Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill praised Blunt’s apparent softening of his earlier support for repeal. Both of them also believe that any Senate version of a repeal would need to be significantly different from what may pass in the House due to needed Democratic support.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

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