WASHINGTON (AFP) – As his Republican Party seeks to revamp a health-care reform Bill that was dead on arrival in the Senate, President Donald Trump admitted on Wednesday (June 28) that making good on his campaign pledge to overhaul Obamacare is no easy task.
On Tuesday, the Republican majority in the Senate – faced with a revolt from within its ranks – was forced to postpone a vote on its health-care Bill until after the July 4 Independence Day recess.
Since 2010, Republican lawmakers have worked to dismantle Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare – the signature domestic policy achievement of Trump’s Democratic predecessor.
But even after July 4, the outcome of the vote is far from certain, with at least nine Republican senators publicly opposing the Bill in its current form.
Trump – who met with senators after Tuesday’s legislative setback – put on a brave face Wednesday, promising an insurance system that is “far better than Obamacare” and “much less expensive” for Americans and the government.
But he recognised the challenges ahead in the Senate, where Republicans hold 52 of 100 seats, meaning they can only afford two defections.
“It’s very tough – every state is different, every senator is different,” the President said.
“We’ll see what happens – we’re working very hard, we have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday suggested that both sides “start over” and come together to hammer out a compromise deal, suggesting that Trump host a meeting of all senators on the issue.
While Trump insisted during his successful White House run that health care reform was doable, Wednesday was not the first time the billionaire real estate mogul-turned-president expressed doubts.
“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” Trump said in late February, prompting much mockery in Washington, given how health care had dogged Democratic and Republican administrations alike for decades.
The US health-care system is a labyrinth of public and private structures, operating at the federal, state and local levels.
The Republican reform plan would not directly affect half of Americans, who receive health insurance through their employers. It also would not affect those 65 and older who are eligible for government benefits under Medicare.
It would however cut deeply into Medicaid, the public health programme for the poor and disabled. Critics say that Medicaid costs are rising at a fast and ultimately unsustainable rate.