White House Says Rollback of Obamacare Must be Part of Short-Term Fix

October 20, 2017

By: Richard Cowan, Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior White House aide said on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump would demand steps toward repealing Obamacare in any healthcare legislation, comments that cast doubt on the prospects for a short-term bill to shore up insurance markets.

Marc Short, the White House’s top liaison to Congress, said on CNN that Obamacare’s mandates and taxes would have to be rolled back and consumers be allowed to more heavily invest in health-savings accounts for Trump to sign off on any congressional deal.

“We’re willing to work on this but we need to make sure that we’re getting something that will actually reduce healthcare costs,” Short said.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray unveiled legislation to shore up the insurance markets created under the 2010 healthcare law by reviving the subsidies, which Trump has discontinued, for two years to help lower-income Americans obtain medical coverage.

The bill appeared to be gaining some momentum on Thursday after several Republican senators said they would support the measure. But Short’s comments may put a damper on hopes for any sort of bipartisan agreement. Democrats have consistently opposed efforts to dismantle any and all parts of Obamacare.

Short said the administration was sending a list of the principles it would like to see in any legislation to the bill’s co-authors and would likely make them public.

“The gist is we believe that the individual mandate should (be) repealed, employer mandate repealed and allow Americans to contribute to health savings accounts,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Alexander and Murray said the deal they struck now has the support of 12 of the 52 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate, as well as 12 Democrats.

While Alexander predicted in remarks on the Senate floor that the plan “will become law in some fashion before the end of the year,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not committed to bringing it to a vote, and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan is against it.

Lobbyists and congressional aides closely following the matter said the legislation could make it onto the Senate floor tucked inside a bigger “must-pass” bill that Congress needs to act on in December, such as a broad spending measure to prevent a federal government shutdown.

Trump campaigned for the presidency last year promising to get rid of Obamacare, the signature legislative achievement of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. But his fellow Republicans who control Congress have failed to repeal and replace the law thanks to deep intra-party divisions.

Obamacare, formally called the Affordable Care Act, extended health insurance to 20 million people but Republicans call it government interference in Americans’ healthcare.

The law’s individual mandate requires all Americans to purchase health insurance, while its employer mandate requires businesses of a certain size to offer affordable coverage.

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