BERKELEY (KTVU)-- A Republican repeal of President Obama's Affordable Care Act without any plan to replace it could jeopardize health insurance for the millions who obtained coverage through the law, according to UC Berkeley researcher Ken Jacobs.
"About 22 million people would lose coverage in a repeal. and in California there are 3.7 million who gained Medicaid coverage,' said Jacobs, who is chair of UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education.
Democrats and Republicans drew battle lines Wednesday over the future of the controversial Affordable Care Act. President Obama held a 90-minute strategy meeting with congressional Democrats on how to preserve his landmark health care law. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence met with Republicans on how to take it down.
"The first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare. That is our message today and it'll be our message on Capitol Hill. It needs to be done," said Vice President-Elect Pence.
"They have no replacement plan. They have no replacement plan because they can't agree, they don't have the votes for a replacement plan," said Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader.
Republicans offered no details Wednesday but say they are still working on a replacement plan.
President Obama's Affordable Care Act was signed to law in 2010 and aimed to provide health insurance for the 44 million uninsured Americans.
Since then, more than 20 million Americans gained insurance.
Under the Obama health care law many people gained coverage through expanded Medicaid or subsidies to help pay their premiums, as well as rules allowing children to remain on their parents insurance up to age 26, and preventing insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The law also mandated employers and individuals sign up for coverage or pay a fine.
"If they get rid of the individual mandate and healthier people drop out of the pool and sicker people stay in and buy coverage, health care costs are going to go up and if health care costs go up, more healthy would choose to drop out of the pool," said Jacobs.
Jacobs says that Republicans are using the budget process to defund parts of the health care law, allowing them to bypass a vote on a replacement plan which would open the door to a possible Democratic filibuster.
Jacobs warns, though, that a piecemeal approach to removing parts of the law wihtout a replacement option could create uncertainty and instability in the insurance markets.
"So what they're talking about doing could significantly destabilize the individual insurance market in various areas of the country," Jacobs said.