Politics

Ryan, Trump Describe Obamacare Replacement As ‘Rescue Mission’

President: ‘Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated’

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell speak to members of the media in front of the West Wing of the White House February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan and McConnell had a meeting with President Donald Trump earlier. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and top congressional Republicans on Monday described their efforts to replace the 2010 health care law as a pressing matter — even though doing so quickly defies their political interests.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky emerged from an Oval Office meeting with the president to tell reporters that the law is “collapsing.” McConnell sidestepped a question by reciting former President Bill Clinton’s campaign-season assessment that it is the “craziest thing in the world.”

“Obamacare, to quote a head of an insurance company, is in a death spiral. This is a rescue mission,” Ryan said. “We have to step in and prevent Obamacare from getting worse, from collapsing.”

The speaker’s assessment sounded a lot like one Trump shared with insurance industry executives earlier in the day during a separate meeting at the White House. He told them the system the law established soon could “implode,” adding: “Obamacare has been a disaster, and it’s only getting worse.”

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The president told the executives that the best thing politically for Republicans would be to let the 2010 law collapse so Democrats would “come begging” for the GOP to work out a new system.

“The chaos that Obamacare has created and for which congressional Democrats … are alone responsible for requires swift action,” Trump said. “I actually told the Republicans that if we did nothing, just did nothing for a two-year period, let Obamacare totally implode, which it’s doing right now anyway, that would be from a political standpoint the best thing we could do.”

But he insisted his administration will act sooner because it’s the “right” thing to do.

The president told insurance executives that once Republicans move toward replacing the 2010 law, “we sort of inherit the problem, we take over the problem. It becomes ours.”

Speaking in his typical broad brush strokes, and offering no details on how his plan would achieve certain things, Trump said his still-under-construction plan “will be a great plan for the patients, for the people, and hopefully for the companies,” adding it will be “a very competitive plan” that pares costs and improves access to care “very, very substantially. I think people are going to like it a lot.”

His comments came hours after a Washington Post report suggested the president has yet to settle on a single plan or approach, however.

Ryan did not respond to a shouted question about whether Trump has signed on to his soon-to-be unveiled replacement plan.

The speaker, considered congressional Republicans lead policy wonk, also spoke in vague terms about what he plans to roll out.

“We will replace it with a law that’s better, that’s more durable, that lowers costs, improves access to more affordable plans,” he said standing outside the West Wing. “But, more importantly, we’re not going to … force people to buy something they don’t want to buy. We’re going to give people choice and freedom.”

The issue is “top of our list this spring,” he said.

Though Ryan has been at the center of policy debates for years, Trump made a statement Monday morning that shows just how new to policymaking the former businessman and reality television star is.

“It’s an unbelievably complex subject,” the 45th president said. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

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