As Congress prepares to head out of town without a clear plan to move forward reforming Obamacare, President Donald Trump signaled Friday that he’s ready to side with true congressional conservatives who wish to fully repeal, and then replace, the Democratic healthcare law.
The president called for the immediate repeal of the healthcare law in an early morning tweet.
The president’s statement is a huge win for conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a leading congressional critic of the plan Trump administration’s original decision to side with the GOP establishment in pushing the simultaneous repeal/replace legislation that is now staled in the Senate.
According to Paul’s Senate office, the president is now “100 percent” behind the conservative lawmaker’s bid to initiate a full repeal of Obamacare before separately working out the kinks of a replacement measure.
Earlier this week, Paul sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) which provided a conservative wish list for a new direction in the Obamacare repeal conversation.
Paul’s wishes center on four primary points:
Making it easier for individuals and small businesses to pool resources via association health plans.
The lawmaker wrote: “The bill currently allows for self-employed individuals to participate in small business health plans. However, I would suggest that the language be changed to allow any individual, including self-employed individuals, to form associations for the purpose of purchasing group health insurance.”
Total elimination of government assistance for insurance providers.
“For years, conservatives have been concerned with Obamacare’s bailout of the insurance companies through various programs designed to backfill losses the insurers take in the Obamacare exchanges, while they make huge profits in the group markets,” Paul noted. “In fact, insurance company profits were $8 billion per year in 2008, and have risen to $15 billion in 2015.”
The current plan would provide another $136 billion in funding to pay insurance companies to participate in government healthcare markets.
“I urge you to reconsider this insurance company bailout,” Paul said.
Elimination of premium tax credits.
Under the current healthcare overhaul effort, the government would continue to provide refundable tax credits for healthcare costs. According to Paul, the new plan could expand the entitlements to new populations not already receiving them under Obamacare.
Elimination, not renaming, of the individual mandate.
Paul explained: “The continuous coverage requirement, [which] imposes a mandatory 6 month waiting period for individuals with a lapse of 63 days or more in coverage, simply appears to be a Republican version of the individual mandate. This continues the top-down approach that has led to increased premiums and has not changed behavior of the young and healthy who are priced out of the market, and those who game the system to purchase insurance after they become sick. I urge you to remove the mandate and simply allow insurance companies to impose a waiting period.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a frequent Trump critic, is also on board with the president’s changing tune on the Obamacare overhaul.
“On the current path, it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that attempts to prop up much of the crumbling Obamacare structures,” Sasse wrote in a letter to the president. “We can and must do better than either of these — both because the American people deserve better, and because we promised better.”
Under the plan Sasse laid out for the president, lawmakers would repeal the healthcare law immediately and “and then … cancel the scheduled August state work period and instead to spend that month working through regular order, six days per week, writing a health reform package with a vote to be scheduled on Labor Day.”