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Trump backs ‘simultaneous’ ACA repeal and replacement

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(Bloomberg) — President-elect Donald Trump said the Affordable Care Act, which he calls “Obamacare,” should be repealed and replaced “essentially simultaneously,” weighing in on a political debate among Republican lawmakers who are grappling with how to tackle the effort.

Related: Five Republican senators seek ACA action delay

“It’ll be repeal and replace. It’ll be essentially simultaneously,” Trump said Wednesday in his first press conference since the election.

Trump didn’t provide details of his plans for the Affordable Care Act, but indicated that his administration will present replacement proposals after his pick for Health and Human Services secretary is confirmed, a process that could take weeks. Senators are set to vote this week on an initial step to repeal Obamacare via a budget process, with a target date later this month for more detailed repeal plans. But some Republicans have become wary of doing away with the ACA before a replacement plan is ready, and called for a delay in the process.

“We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said at Trump Tower in New York. “We’re going to do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff, and we’re going to get a health bill passed.”

Timeline questions

Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price, the president-elect’s pick for HHS secretary, faces a hearing next week in front of the Senate’s health committee, although the key hearing for his confirmation hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Related: ACA change rules

Trump’s remarks appear to push back the timeline for action on Obamacare from comments he made Tuesday to the New York Times. He told the newspaper that a repeal vote should be held “probably some time next week” and that a replacement should come “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”

A group of five GOP senators has been working to extend the date for an initial step in the repeal process to early March from this month, to allow more time to design a replacement plan. In the House, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus want to see details about how Obamacare would be replaced before voting to begin repeal efforts.

Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate’s health committee, said Tuesday that Obamacare should be repealed “only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care.” He’s proposed plans to first shore up the Affordable Care Act’s existing markets, before crafting a replacement and repealing the health law.

Hospital stocks rose immediately following the President-elect's press conference. (Photo: iStock)Hospital stocks rose immediately following the President-elect’s press conference. (Photo: iStock)

Markets respond

Hospital stocks rose, with Tenet Healthcare Corp. gaining 2.8 percent to $18.01 at 2:12 p.m. in New York, while Community Health Systems Inc. was up 4 percent to $6.61. HCA Holdings Inc., the biggest U.S. for-profit hospital chain, gained 1.3 percent to $79.26. Industry groups have pleaded with lawmakers to ensure there’s a replacement for Obamacare to cushion them if the program is repealed.

Health insurer stocks posted modest declines. The health insurance industry is seeking clarity on replacement plans, the industry’s main lobby group said in a statement.

“The individual market has been challenged from the beginning, and now Americans want stability,” America’s Health Insurance Plans said. “By being clear on replacement proposals now, we can take away a lot of uncertainty.”

Insurers fared better than drugmakers, which plunged as Trump said he’d force the industry to bid for government business, in an effort to save the U.S. billions of dollars. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index lost 3.3 percent, while an index of major drugmakers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 2 percent. Price, the HHS nominee, has opposed efforts in the past to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Trump has cautioned Republicans to let Democrats take the blame for problems with Obamacare, tweeting last week, “It will fall of its own weight — be careful!” He reiterated that criticism during the press event, saying “The easiest thing would be to let it implode.”

Instead, Trump said, “We’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better.”

See also:

5 Trump-era health policy losers, and 5 possible winners

What a Trump presidency means for the ACA

Group health coverage is ‘Obamacare’

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