President Barack Obama on Monday laid out why the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, will be difficult for the incoming Republican leadership and the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
“The holy grail for Republicans over the last six or seven years was to kill Obamacare,” Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all have called for the repeal of the law since Trump’s stunning electoral victory last week.
Obama said, however, that it will be a rough road for Republicans if they simply try to repeal the law, given some of its more popular benefits — the end of lifetime limits, prescription drug discounts for seniors, free mammograms, and the fact that more than 20 million now have coverage through some of the law’s provisions, among others.
“Now it’s one thing to characterise this thing as not working when it’s an abstraction,” said Obama. “Now, suddenly, you’re in charge and you’re going to repeal it — OK, well, what happens to those 20 million people who have health insurance? Are you just going to kick them off and suddenly, they don’t have health insurance?”
Obama said he would be open to fixes to the law or a new plan that ensures many of the benefits — such as children having the ability to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and insurers not being able to deny coverage due to a preexisting condition — do not disappear.
“My view on these issues is that if they can come up with something better that actually works and in a year or two after they have replaced the Affordable Care Act with their own plan, and 25 million people have health insurance, and it’s cheaper and better and running smoothly, I’ll be the first one to say that’s great. Congratulations,” Obama said.
Obama did say that if their plan leads to million of people losing coverage and other issues, he and the American people will not be happy.
“We’re going to have a problem,” Obama said. “I don’t think that’s unique to me, I think the American people will feel that way.”
Currently, Trump’s healthcare plan on his transition website does not have provisions to ensure that those 20 million people are still covered. Trump did say on Friday he may keep two of the law’s most popular provisions after speaking with Obama.
These parts of the law, however, can not be easily repealed, given Republicans do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and can only repeal parts of the law that have to do with the federal budget through a budget-reconciliation process. Health policy experts told Business Insider last week that these do not include the preexisting condition and children-under-26 provisions.
Said Obama: “On a lot of issues, now comes the hard part, now comes the governance.”
Watch the full press conference below:
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