WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Obamacare would be repealed and replaced early next year, following the failure of the Senate’s latest effort to overturn the law.
After the Senate pulled back from a vote on legislation that would have moved control of health insurance to the states, Trump said Republicans “have the votes” to upend the Affordable Care Act. The Senate had been nearing a vote on a measure proposed by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to give money to states to replace ACA subsidies to insurers. It would have repealed the mandate for most Americans to have coverage and for larger employers to provide it. And Medicaid would have been cut significantly.
The legislation was doomed by opposition from three Republicans: Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“We were very disappointed by a couple of senators,” said Trump. “We are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said late last month, “We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system. We’re not going to be able to do it this week.” But he said senators would be concentrating on tax reform.
Trump also said he would engage in talks with Democrats on a health care bill and issue a “very major executive order.” Under that order “people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own health care,” he said.
Republicans have long sought to remove restrictions on people buying heath insurance across state lines, maintaining that such purchases could restrain price hikes and boost competition. Paul said he had been working with the White House on a rules change that would let people organize to buy insurance thorough “association health plans” formed by trade and civic groups.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said they would continue to work on legislation to fund “cost sharing” subsidies for insurance companies. But some White House officials and House Republicans have said the plan could bolster Obamacare.
Alexander said he would consult with Murray and with senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to seek consensus on a limited bipartisan plan to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019.
“I would have voted for the Graham-Cassidy proposal because it meant more money and more state decision making for Tennessee, and would have helped control the federal debt,” he said. “But Graham-Cassidy primarily would have affected 2020 and beyond. I’m still concerned about the next two years, and Congress has an opportunity to slow down premium increases in 2018, begin to lower them in 2019, and do our best to make sure there are no counties where people have zero options to buy health insurance.”
Murray called on Trump “to stop his health care sabotage” and work across the aisle to help strengthen care and lower its cost. “If he’s truly serious, he can show it … by committing to take partisan Trumpcare efforts off the table once and for all, announcing he’ll continue out-of-pocket cost reduction payments, and reversing his decision to gut investments in informing people about how to enroll in health care coverage this fall.”