White House

Trump: GOP will have replacement if Obamacare is struck down, but no plan is in sight

Sen. Alexander can‘t point to one, but signals party would support help for pre-existing conditions

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., could not point to a GOP plan to replace the 2010 health care law when asked about President Trump’s pledge their party would have one ready if an administration effort to take down the Obama-era law succeeds. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite failing to propose a plan of his own for four years, President Donald Trump again Wednesday claimed Republicans will have a replacement proposal ready if the Supreme Court strikes down the 2010 health care law.

“If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we’ll have a plan that is far better than Obamacare,” he told reporters during an unrelated Oval Office event.

But that pledge represents a trend, and conjures bad memories for Republicans of their failed 2017 effort to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

That’s because Trump for years has promised what he often has said would be a “very special” replacement for the Barack Obama-era law. But even though he has had three years to come up with something, Trump has presented no such plan to the American people and congressional Republicans never sent one to his desk when they controlled the House and Senate during his first two years in office.

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On Capitol Hill, Republicans seemed initially shocked by the Monday move against the entire law. In the days since, there is no movement toward a GOP replacement.

Asked about Trump’s comments Wednesday, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander could not yet point to such a broad replacement plan to be put on the table. But the Tennessee Republican also suggested there would be quick action on pre-existing condition protections.

“The one thing I’m sure of, if that should happen — and we’re certainly a long way from there — and if [it] had any effect on protecting Americans with pre-existing health conditions, there would be an immediate plan to replace that,” Alexander said.

Before the retiring senator’s comments, Trump returned to his usual rhetoric about the law by calling it a “disaster.”

“The premium is too high and deductible is horrible,” he said during an unrelated event in the Oval Office. “It’s far too expensive for the people, not only for the country.”

The administration’s move on the law known as “Obamacare” came as the president and some aides were apparently eager to seize on perceived momentum from Attorney General William Barr’s summary of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, which found no criminal conspiracy between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia but did not exonerate him on obstruction of justice.

The administration on Monday night said in a filing with a federal appeals court that the entire 2010 health care law should be struck down after the effective repeal of the so-called “individual mandate.”

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The move is a curious one politically, GOP and Democratic political strategists say, because it potentially brings into question health coverage for millions of Americans just as the president’s 2020 re-election campaign is kicking into gear. It also comes as senior Democrats like House Minority Whip James E. Clyburn are calling on his party to focus on so-called “pocketbook issues” like healthcare.

What’s more, part of Democrats’ 2018 midterms pitch was to keep the 2010 law on the books, but fix parts that are flawed.

“The GOP will never stop trying to destroy the affordable health care of America’s families. I always think of Mr. Clyburn and [Rep.] John Lewis [of Georgia] when they quote Martin Luther King, when he talks about, ‘Of all the injustices, the most inhumane is the inequality of health care,’” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Tuesday.

“And the Department of Justice becomes the Department of Injustice when it wants to tear down health care benefits,” she said. “Because as Dr. King said, ‘People could die.’”

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