A day after the Justice Department gave its full backing to a legal repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration provided no indication it had any specifics for what would take the law’s place.
“He didn’t offer a plan,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said after Senate Republicans had lunch with President Donald Trump on Tuesday. “He referred to some of the ideas that have been debated in the past.”
The failure by Republicans to overturn the Affordable Care Act has been a sore point for the president. In recent weeks, Trump has taken to Twitter to attack the late Sen. John McCain, who in 2017 cast the decisive vote against a bill packaged as a “skinny repeal” of the health law. The following year, Republicans lost control of the House, as many Democrats campaigned on a promises to shield Obamacare from its GOP critics.
Despite those setbacks, the Trump administration has succeeded in weakening key planks of the nine-year-old health law, including by using the president’s tax overhaul to eliminate the ACA’s penalty for not buying health insurance. Twenty Republican-leaning states seized on that development to argue that defanging the mandate invalidated the rest of the law.
On Monday, the Justice Department changed its position in that fight, saying a lower court was correct in finding that the entire law should be undone. That’s a switch from its earlier stance that only parts of the law protecting access to health coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions should go.
The full ACA package includes many provisions unrelated to what is commonly thought of as Obamacare, such as provisions related to the training of doctors and nurses, and the provision that began the phaseout of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan donut hole, or the gap between when routine coverage ends and catastrophic coverage begins.
Wiping the ACA off the books could end subsidies for millions of people, eliminate expanded Medicaid coverage in 37 states, roll back requirements for employer health plans, and even change rules regarding menu labeling in restaurants. It’s not clear how such policies would be unwound if courts agree with the Trump administration’s new position.
“The Trump administration stands ready to work with Congress on policy solutions like those in our budget that empower consumers and states to regain control over their health care and increase affordability and continue to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions,” Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan told the House Budget Committee on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump also weighed in via Twitter following his meeting with Senate Republicans:
Republicans who attended the meeting with the president on Tuesday said that Trump was intent on a renewed attempt to undo his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement.
“More than anything else, he focused on health care,” said Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. “He said we need to do better than what we have. And he hopes we’ll take another run at it.”
The administration declined to say anything more specific about what it would do if it gets its way. Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS, declined to answer detailed questions about its plan if the lawsuit succeeds. She referred the questions to the Justice Department.