Senate takes first step to scrap Obamacare

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People signing up for Obamacare
Image Caption: Some 20m previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage through the scheme
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The US Senate has voted in favour of drafting a bill to repeal the outgoing President's flagship health insurance scheme known as Obamacare.

Under the programme – signed into law by Barack Obama – around 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage.

The US Senate resolution, which was passed by a 51-48 majority, will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Friday.

Republicans in both chambers have said that scrapping the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is a top priority for them.

Barack Obama holds a press conference at the conclusion of the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru
Image Caption: Barack Obama signed the health insurance scheme into law in 2010

President-elect Donald Trump has called the scheme a "catastrophe" which had to be overhauled "very, very quickly".

During a press conference on Wednesday, he said he would replace Obamacare with legislation to "get health care taken care of in this country".

:: Democrats and the President step up the fight for Obamacare

However, efforts to a draw up a replacement scheme have stalled.

Man with Obamacare sign
Image Caption: Obamacare was to be a key part of President Obama's legacy

Ahead of Friday's vote in the House of Representatives, Republican congressman Tom MacArthur said he opposed plans to push forward the repeal of the Act.

He said: "We're loading a gun here. I want to know where it's pointed before we start the process."

Republican senator Susan Collins warned her party would risk "people falling through the cracks or causing turmoil in insurance markets" if it repealed Obamacare without putting a replacement scheme in place first.

:: Trump softens Obamacare threat but fears remain over healthcare void

Donald Trump said Vladimir Putin's decision not to expel US diplomats was a 'great move'
Image Caption: President-elect Donald Trump has called Obamacare a 'catastrophe'

Meanwhile, Democratic senator Bernie Sanders claimed Republicans "have no idea how they are going to bring forth a substitute proposal".

As well as extending health insurance to millions, Obamacare prevented insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and funded the Medicaid health programme for the poor.

Since it was signed in 2010, Republicans have launched repeated efforts to repeal the Act.

Republican senator Thad Cochran claimed it had "limited choice, increased costs and diminished access to healthcare" across the US.

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