Vote to scrap Obamacare postponed

Representative James Clyburn speaking in Washington as he announced legislation to increase funding for community health centres and services. With him was Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who opposes the step-by-step expansion of Obamacare propose
Representative James Clyburn speaking in Washington as he announced legislation to increase funding for community health centres and services. With him was Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who opposes the step-by-step expansion of Obamacare proposed by Democrats.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump said Republicans would wait until after the 2020 election to hold a vote on a replacement for Obamacare, abruptly halting a push he began just last week and guaranteeing that the issue will take centre stage in his re-election campaign.

He made the shift in a series of Twitter posts late on Monday night, saying that the "vote will be taken right after the election when Republicans hold the Senate and win back the House".

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 next year. 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," Mr Trump said in a Monday night tweet.

Some lawmakers were critical of Mr Trump's announcement.

"From his very first day in office, his goal has been to get rid of (Obamacare)," Democrat Senator Tim Kaine told CNN yesterday.

Mr Kaine advocates a plan called Medicare X, which he said is a "Medicare-produced policy that can be bought on the exchange".

It differs from "Medicare for All" proposals in that it would not add to the deficit or increase taxes because the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services would collect premiums that would finance the cost of providing coverage, he said.

Mr Trump rekindled the long-running political conflict over healthcare last week when he ordered the 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.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference on March 26: "The GOP will never stop trying to destroy the affordable healthcare of America's families. I always think of (House Majority Whip James) Clyburn and John Lewis when they quote Martin Luther King, when he talks about, 'of all the injustices, the most inhumane is the inequality of healthcare'."

What Democrats propose is a step-by-step expansion of Obamacare that both Republicans and Senator Bernie Sanders vehemently oppose.

Mr Sanders, also a Democrat, wants to scrap everything in favour of single-payer healthcare.

BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2019, with the headline 'Vote to scrap Obamacare postponed'. Print Edition | Subscribe