WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - United States President Donald Trump said on Monday (April 1) that he was willing to wait until after the 2020 presidential election to get Congress to vote on a new healthcare plan, giving Republicans time to develop a proposal to replace Obamacare.
Congressional Republicans have been unable thus far to draft a proposal to replace Democratic former president Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act, despite frequent vows to do so in recent years.
Mr Trump's vow last week that the Republican Party will be "the party of healthcare" caught his fellow Republicans off guard after the Justice Department backed a lawsuit intended to wipe out Obamacare, which has helped millions of Americans get health insurance.
In a series of tweets on Monday night, Mr Trump said Republicans are developing "a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than Obamacare".
"In other words, it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House," he said.
Mr Trump's move suggests he is willing to debate the future of the US healthcare system during the 2020 presidential election campaign than try to reach agreement on a plan sooner.
The posting ended a week-long scramble by Republican lawmakers to come up with an Obamacare alternative after the administration unexpectedly changed its position in a lawsuit by arguing that Obamacare should be entirely struck down.
Mr Trump’s Justice Department had previously said that it should be only partly overturned. A final court ruling in that case is likely to come before June 2020.
If Mr Trump wins in court, there could be swift and widespread chaos and uncertainty in American healthcare – at least until an alternative system is put in place – as the array of changes to industry regulations, subsidies for low-income individuals and delivery system reforms would be undone.
“Everybody agrees that ObamaCare doesn’t work,” the President said late on Monday.
Mr Trump rekindled the long-running political conflict over healthcare last week when he ordered his Justice Department to shift its position on a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate parts of the Affordable Care Act, agreeing with US District Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling that the law itself is unconstitutional and should be scrapped entirely.
The President then urged Senate Republicans to come up with a “spectacular” healthcare proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act. “We are going to be the Republicans, the party of great health care,” Mr Trump told reporters last week.
"The Democrats, they let you down. They came up with Obamacare and it is terrible.”
Most congressional Republicans, however, are in no mood to return to the battlefield. Although they had fiercely opposed the law since 2010, it gradually became more popular with voters and was considered a chief factor in last November’s Democratic victories that cost the GOP control of the House of Representatives.
In the House elections, healthcare ranked as the top issue for voters. Those voters preferred Democratic candidates by a striking margin of 75 per cent to 23 per cent, according to exit polls published by CNN. Democrats won 40 seats and captured the majority after eight years.
Republicans, on the other hand, have been eager to run against “Medicare for all", a favourite proposal of progressive Democrats that Mr Trump referred to in his tweets, and equally eager to avoid the Obamacare debate after the trouble it caused them last year.