President Trump announced Thursday that a team of GOP senators is ready to give health care another shot after nearly a decade of promising and failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
But he added the caveat that he is in no rush to get it done.
Trump resurrected the issue this week after the Justice Department, in a court filing Monday, said it supported the full elimination of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The president’s assertion that Republicans would become “the party of health care” surprised some Republicans, who thought they had missed their chance to replace the law.
Republicans were dealt a defeat during Trump’s first year in office when they failed to make good on their campaign promise to end Obamacare. The closest they got to dismantling it was to eliminate the penalty on people who did not purchase health care.
Instead, the White House used executive actions to chip away at the law while 20 governors challenged it in court.
Trump named Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) as the point people on Capitol Hill crafting the legislation.
“They are going to come up with something really spectacular,” Trump told reporters before heading to a political rally in Michigan.
Trump also claimed that Republicans “will take care of preexisting conditions better than they’re taken care of now.”
The ACA makes it illegal for health insurers to deny coverage or raise rates on anyone with a preexisting or current illness. Trump did not expand on how it would be improved.
Trump also sounded triumphant about a lawsuit brought by 20 states seeking that Obamacare be ruled unconstitutional. A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the entire law hinged on the fee imposed on people without health insurance. Since Congress eliminated that mandate in its tax bill, the law is no longer constitutional, the judge ruled. An appeal on that case is pending.
According to Trump, those opposed to the ACA are “winning in the courts.”
Democrats campaigned on this issue in November, warning voters that if the courts invalidate the law, then all of its most popular provisions, such as protections for people with preexisting conditions, would go down with it.
The law has become increasingly popular with the public, and Democrats credit voters’ concerns about health care for their winning the House.
Cassidy, one of the three senators Trump named, was the architect of a replacement bill in 2017 that would have provided block grants to states to allow them to set the guidelines for their insurers. The Senate never voted on it.
All three have been separately working on health-care-related legislation, but Trump said he has asked them to take on the larger endeavor.
Cassidy and Barrasso were both medical doctors. Scott ran a hospital company that, notably, was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud found to have occurred when he was at the helm.
Trump said he is not in a rush to get to health care, because he is waiting to see what the courts will decide. Democrats, who are elated to be talking about health care, argue the exact opposite, saying there should be a replacement in place if the ACA is dismantled. Otherwise, they say, people will lose the consumer protections in the law.
Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.