WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three top U.S. Republican lawmakers, including Representative Paul Ryan, will lead an effort to craft new health reforms that could replace Obamacare, party officials said on Friday. House leadership said Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, would join Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline as part of a new healthcare working group. The three and their respective committees will attempt to produce "a thoughtful replacement strategy" that could one day accompany Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republican-controlled House, which has voted numerous times to overturn the healthcare law, is expected to do so again next week. Republicans have failed in the past to reach consensus on legislation to replace Obamacare and analysts say that stubborn differences within the party persist. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said a new plan could also provide a "patient-centered" contingency in case the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates federal subsidies used to help people afford private coverage sold through a federal insurance exchange that covers 37 states. The case, known as King v. Burwell, is due for oral arguments in March with a ruling likely in late June. Plaintiffs contend that the law makes the subsidies available only through state-based exchanges that operate in 13 states and Washington, D.C. The federal government and healthcare reform advocates say the assertion is unfounded. More than 10 million people have gained health coverage under Obamacare, according to researchers. But if the court finds for the plaintiffs, studies show that millions of Americans could lose their private insurance and rejoin the ranks of the uninsured. Republicans in the Senate have also talked about a potential "patient-centered" blueprint that would scale back government financial support for consumers and make policyholders responsible for more of their medical bills. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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