(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said the process for coming up with a replacement for Obamacare could stretch into 2018, a longer time frame than he previously indicated.
Trump’s comments came in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that aired on Sunday during the Super Bowl pregame show. O’Reilly asked the president whether he would introduce a health plan this year to replace Obamacare, which Trump has long vowed to quickly repeal as one of his top priorities.
“Maybe it’ll take till some time into next year, but we are certainly going to be in the process,” Trump said in the interview. “I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.”
Speakers are not always clear when they are using the term “Obamacare” whether they are referring to all of the Affordable Care Act package or just part of the law. Trump did not say how he defines the term.
Trump said in January that he’d put forward his plans for replacing Obamacare, once Tom Price, his pick to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is confirmed. The Senate is expected to vote on Price later this week.
“We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said at a Jan. 11 press conference. “It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.”
Trump’s remarks are the latest sign of the challenges Republican lawmakers are facing as they work to figure out how to de-fund, change, repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, after seven years of calling for Barack Obama’s health law to be scuttled. Congress held several hearings last week on aspects of the law, while insurers have pressed for certainty so they can draw up business plans for next year.
Some Republicans have begun discussing “repairing” Obamacare, rather than simply repealing and replacing it, as they work to figure out how to make sure insurance coverage isn’t jeopardized for the roughly 20 million people who’ve gained it under the law. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said late Sunday that a vote to begin repealing Obamacare will take place this year, though it may not take effect until later.
“While Congress will vote to repeal and replace Obamacare this year, the repeal of Obamacare finally will become effective when our reforms are implemented and we have concrete, practical alternatives,” he wrote in a blog post. “We will repair the damage that Obamacare has caused millions of Americans. We will do that by replacing Obamacare with better, lower-cost alternatives and repealing the parts of Obamacare that have caused the damage.”