President-elect Donald Trump said Obamacare should be repealed and replaced “essentially simultaneously,” weighing in on a political debate among Republican lawmakers who are grappling with how to tackle the effort.
“It’ll be repeal and replace. It’ll be essentially simultaneously,” Trump said at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York.
Trump didn’t provide details of his plans for the Affordable Care Act, but appeared to indicate his administration will present replacement proposals after his pick for Health and Human Services secretary is confirmed, a process that could take weeks.
Senators are set to vote this week on an initial step to repeal Obamacare via a budget process, with a target date later this month for more detailed repeal plans. But some Republicans have become wary of repealing the Affordable Care Act before a replacement plan is ready, and have called for a delay in the process.
“We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said. “We’re going to do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff, and we’re going to get a health bill passed.”
Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, the president-elect’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, faces a hearing next week in front of the Senate’s health committee, although the key hearing for his confirmation hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Trump’s remarks appear to push back the timeline for action on Obamacare from comments he made to the New York Times on Tuesday. He told the newspaper that a repeal vote should be held “probably some time next week” and that a replacement should come “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”
A group of five GOP senators has been working to extend the date for an initial step in the repeal process to early March from this month, to allow more time for a replacement plan. In the House, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus want to see details about how Obamacare would be replaced before voting to begin repeal efforts.
Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate’s health committee, said Tuesday that Obamacare should be repealed “only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care.” He’s proposed plans to first shore up the Affordable Care Act’s existing markets, before crafting a replacement and repealing the health law.
Trump has cautioned Republicans to let Democrats take the blame for problems with Obamacare, tweeting last week, “It will fall of its own weight – be careful!” He reiterated that criticism during the press event, saying “The easiest thing would be to let it implode.”
Instead, Trump said, “We’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better.”
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Zachary Tracer, Anna Edney