GOP Searches for Consensus on Obamacare Repeal

Deliberations could continue into the summer

Republicans from the House, Senate, and White House gathered in Philadelphia this week searching for agreement on how to “repeal and replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). By the end of the second day of the three-day retreat, however, it was clear that they were not all reading from the same page.

House and Senate Republican leaders did appear to settle on a timing strategy for overhauling the PPACA that could take them through the summer, even if they were light on specifics.

“We don’t want to set arbitrary deadlines on things,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). “We want to move quickly, but we want to get things right.”

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) earlier described the idea of separate “buckets” consisting of fast-track budget legislation, administrative action by Trump officials, and more-traditional legislation. “We’re looking forward to being very busy until August,” she said.

Some of the individual bills Blackburn mentioned are ones Republicans have pursued for years, such as allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines and capping some damages in medical malpractice suits in an effort to deter doctors from practicing “defensive medicine” to avoid being sued. Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia), whom President Trump has nominated to run the Department of Health and Human Services, has been a leading advocate of some of these GOP proposals.

According to the budget resolution passed by both chambers earlier this month, House and Senate committees were supposed to finish work on their partial-repeal bills by January 27. That won’t happen, as none of the committees in question has begun work yet.

For his part, President Trump stuck to his desire for legislation sooner rather than later. “We have to take care of the American people immediately, so we can’t wait,” he told the group.

Pence reiterated the idea that overhauling and replacing the PPACA needs to be done at the same time. “President Trump has made it very clear: We need to end this law’s burden on hard-working families and business, and simultaneously replace it with a better plan, based on free-market principles and choice,” he said.

Source: Kaiser Health News; January 26, 2017.