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Ben Sasse, Deb Fischer

Sens. Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer

Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse joined with all but two of their Republican colleagues on Tuesday in voting to launch a Senate debate on health care legislation that could lead to repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

"The status quo is simply unacceptable and I believe we need to act," Fischer said.

"Under ObamaCare, health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for Nebraskans," she said.  

Premiums in Nebraska increased by 153 percent from 2013 to 2017, Fischer said. The state has only one insurer offering individual plans through the health care exchange, she said. 

Sasse described the vote as "step one in what's going to be a long process" of debating health care reform.

"I expect the Senate to immediately start the back-and-forth amendment process," he said.

"If a bill ultimately passes, it will not be the House bill, but rather something that goes to a conference debate process with the House of Representatives."

The House passed its own health care bill in May.

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The 51-50 GOP Senate victory, secured by the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence, may lead to action that "could force tens of thousands of Nebraskans to lose their health coverage," Nebraska Appleseed declared in expressing disappointment with the vote of Nebraska's senators.

"We are extremely disappointed that both Sen. Fischer and Sen. Sasse went along with this process and voted to place in jeopardy the health care of so many of their constituents," Appleseed deputy health care director Molly McCleery said.

"This vote is a sharp departure from the deliberative process that yielded the Affordable Care Act and opens the door to a variety of unscreened proposals, none of which will have gone through a transparent process, a committee hearing, congressional study or received the input of health care stakeholders and experts," she said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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