Senate Republicans lack plan to replace Obamacare, despite Trump’s confidence
President Trump has labeled the GOP the “party of great health care,” but there doesn’t appear to be much of a plan behind the brand.
Even as he cheers on the courts to strike down Obamacare, he has signaled that he is counting on three Republican senators to develop a plan to replace the 2010 law.
But one of them, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, has suggested he’s waiting for the White House to make the first move.
The senator is focused instead on bipartisan efforts to drive down the cost of prescription drugs, his office said Monday.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico last week that he’s more focused on stopping Democrats’ “Medicare for All” universal health care plan than he is in developing a Republican alternative to Obamacare. He said it’ll be up to Mr. Trump to propose something else.
Mr. Trump’s move last week to have his administration ask an appeals court to invalidate all of the Affordable Care Act created an opening for Democrats, who say the president’s chaotic approach to health care will hurt him in the 2020 campaign.
In the days since, Mr. Trump has predicted legal victory and insisted what comes after Obamacare will be magnificent but hasn’t detailed how to get there.
Sen. Susan Collins, a bellwether moderate Republican, openly chastised the administration Monday for its strategy, arguing it’s too risky. In a letter, she scolded Attorney General William Barr for the new legal strategy.
“Rather than seeking to have the courts invalidate the ACA, the proper route for the administration to pursue would be to propose changes to the ACA or to once again seek its repeal,” she wrote. “The administration should not attempt to use the courts to bypass Congress.”
Mr. Trump on Monday said Obamacare remains too expensive and that “good things are going happen” in the Republican-controlled Senate, though experts don’t see a clear path forward.
“The Republicans have no health care alternative, and as far as I can see into the future, I don’t see any Republican proposals on the horizon that Republicans could get behind,” Robert Laszewski, a health policy consultant in Virginia, said in an update for his clients. “In the end, I don’t see this as anything more than Trump giving the Democrats political ammunition for 2020.”
House Democrats on Tuesday are scheduled to vote to condemn the administration for agreeing, through Mr. Barr, with Republican-led states, saying it’s further evidence the GOP cannot be trusted to protect people with preexisting conditions or expand insurance options.
Rep. Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat who defeated Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in November after focusing on health care, sponsored the resolution.
A major insurers’ group weighed in Monday against Mr. Trump, saying Obamacare is so entrenched that unspooling it would have devastating effects on millions of Americans.
“The district court’s wholesale invalidation of the ACA is indefensible,” America’s Health Insurance Plans said in a brief to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. “That decision not only contravenes Congress’s clear intent, but does so with cavalier indifference to the impacts it would unleash on the health care system.”
Despite the political perils, some Republicans say it’s worth revisiting the law.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, whose health plan as Massachusetts governor paved the way for Obamacare, said he’s been involved in “preliminary discussions” about health care reform, though she declined to say more.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, meanwhile, suggested the administration will develop some principles for Republicans to latch onto, arguing that approach worked for the GOP’s 2017 tax code overhaul.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has aligned himself with Mr. Trump, laid down his own markers Monday.
He said any Republican plan would include protection for people with preexisting conditions. He also wants to reallocate Obamacare money in a way that lets states change health care as they see fit an idea he pitched in 2017, though it didn’t gather enough support.
“Obamacare cannot be fixed,” he said. “It must be replaced.”