Trump backs re­peal­ing ‘Oba­macare’ now, re­plac­ing it later

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump barged into Se­nate Repub­li­cans’ del­i­cate health care ne­go­ti­a­tions Fri­day, declar­ing that if law­mak­ers can’t reach a deal they should sim­ply re­peal “Oba­macare” right away and then re­place it later on. Trump’s tweet re­vives an ap­proach that GOP lead­ers and the pres­i­dent him­self con­sid­ered but dis­missed months ago as im­prac­ti­cal and po­lit­i­cally un­wise.

And it’s likely to fur­ther com­pli­cate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s task as he strug­gles to bridge the di­vide be­tween GOP mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives as sen­a­tors leave Wash­ing­ton for the Fourth of July break with­out hav­ing voted on a health care bill as planned. “If Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors are un­able to pass what they are work­ing on now, they should im­me­di­ately RE­PEAL, and then RE­PLACE at a later date!”Trump wrote.

The pres­i­dent sent his early-morn­ing tweet shortly af­ter Ne­braska Repub­li­can Sen. Ben Sasse ap­peared on Fox News Chan­nel’s “Fox & Friends” to talk about a let­ter he had sent to Trump mak­ing that ex­act sug­ges­tion: A vote on re­peal­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health law fol­lowed by a new ef­fort at a work­ing out a re­place­ment. Trump is a known “Fox & Friends” viewer, but Repub­li­can Sen Rand Paul of Ken­tucky also claimed credit for rec­om­mend­ing the tac­tic to the pres­i­dent in a con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier in the week.

“Sen Rand Paul sug­gested this very idea to the pres­i­dent,” said Paul spokesman Ser­gio Gor. “The se­na­tor fully agrees that we must im­me­di­ately re­peal Oba­macare and then work on re­plac­ing it right away.” Ei­ther way, Trump’s sug­ges­tion has the po­ten­tial to harden di­vi­sions within the GOP as con­ser­va­tives like Paul and Sasse com­plain that McCon­nell’s bill does not go far enough in re­peal­ing Obama’s health care law while mod­er­ates crit­i­cize it as overly harsh in kick­ing peo­ple off in­sur­ance roles, shrink­ing the Med­i­caid safety net and in­creas­ing pre­mi­ums for older Amer­i­cans.

McCon­nell told re­porters af­ter an event Fri­day in his home state of Ken­tucky that the health care bill re­mains chal­leng­ing but “we are go­ing to stick with that path.”“It’s not easy mak­ing Amer­i­can great again, is it?” McCon­nell said. McCon­nell has been try­ing to strike deals with mem­bers of both fac­tions in or­der to fi­nal­ize a rewrit­ten bill law­mak­ers can vote on when they re­turn to the Capi­tol the se­cond week of July. Even be­fore Trump weighed in, though, it wasn’t clear how far he was get­ting, and Trump’s tweet did not ap­pear to sug­gest a lot of White House con­fi­dence in the out­come.

“McCon­nell’s try­ing to achieve a 50vote Venn di­a­gram be­tween some very com­pet­ing fac­tions,” said Rod­ney Whit­lock, a vet­eran health pol­icy ex­pert who worked as a Se­nate GOP aide dur­ing pas­sage of the Democrats’ Af­ford­able Care Act. “So what the pres­i­dent tweeted takes one side of that Venn di­a­gram and pushes it fur­ther away, and ac­tu­ally puts on the ta­ble an op­tion that will prob­a­bly drive that group away from seek­ing com­pro­mise with the other side of the Venn di­a­gram.” A McCon­nell spokesman de­clined to com­ment on Trump’s tweet. Even be­fore Trump was in­au­gu­rated in Jan­uary, Repub­li­cans had de­bated and ul­ti­mately dis­carded the idea of re­peal­ing Oba­macare be­fore re­plac­ing it, con­clud­ing that both must hap­pen si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Do­ing oth­er­wise would in­vite ac­cu­sa­tions that Repub­li­cans were sim­ply toss­ing peo­ple off cov­er­age and would roil in­sur­ance markets by rais­ing the ques­tion of whether, when and how Congress might re­place Obama’s law once it was gone. The idea also would leave un­re­solved the quandary law­mak­ers are strug­gling with now, about how to re­place Obama’s sys­tem of on­line in­sur­ance markets, tax sub­si­dies and an ex­panded Med­i­caid with some­thing that could get enough Repub­li­can votes to pass Congress.

House Repub­li­cans barely passed their ver­sion of an Oba­macare re­place­ment bill in May, and the task is prov­ing even tougher in the Se­nate, where McCon­nell has al­most no mar­gin for er­ror. Mod­er­ates were spooked as the week be­gan with a Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice find­ing that McCon­nell’s draft bill would re­sult in 22 mil­lion peo­ple los­ing in­sur­ance over the next decade, only 1 mil­lion fewer than un­der the House-passed leg­is­la­tion which Trump pri­vately told sen­a­tors was “mean.”

But con­ser­va­tives con­tinue to in­sist that the bill must go fur­ther than just re­peal­ing some of the man­dates and taxes in Obama’s law. “It’s dis­tress­ing to see so many Repub­li­cans who’ve lied about their com­mit­ment to re­peal,” Ken Cuc­cinelli, pres­i­dent of the Se­nate Con­ser­va­tives Fund, said in a con­fer­ence call on Fri­day.

— AFP

EMPORIA: A nurse screens a pa­tient at Greensville County High School, in Emporia, Vir­ginia dur­ing free med­i­cal aid by Re­mote Area Med­i­cal (RAM), a non­profit vol­un­teer med­i­cal re­lief corps that pro­vides free health care to peo­ple in re­mote ar­eas of the United States.

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