As Senate Republicans continue to slowly craft complementary legislation to the American Health Care Act, Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday assured that effectively repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act is still of the utmost importance to the administration.
“Make no mistake about it,” Pence said to an audience of federal employees at the Department of Health and Human Services, “President Donald Trump is going to keep his promise to the American people, and working with this Congress, we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Pence issued his remarks in the midst of mounting pressure facing Senate Republicans to finalize changes to the House GOP bill and bring it to a vote prior to the August recess. Trump and Pence invited key Senate members to lunch Tuesday to discuss their progress.
“This will be the North Star for our administration,” Pence said.
“The Senate is, as we speak, working tirelessly to improve this legislation and create an orderly framework to transition our healthcare economy away from the regulations and mandates and taxes of Obamacare to a patient-centered healthcare system built on personal responsibility, free-market competition, and state-based reform,” Pence said in his remarks.
He spoke days after yet another health insurer announced it is pulling out of a local Obamacare market in 2018. Major Ohio health insurer Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced last week that it would no longer participate, a move the Trump administration believes confirms the law’s ineffectiveness.
Others have argued that the Trump administration’s uncertainty about whether to provide taxpayer subsidies to pay Obamacare premiums, along with new rule changes affecting the Affordable Care Act, have served to undermine Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
With an Obamacare repeal bill still being developed in the Senate, insurance companies are left in limbo when deciding to whether to participate in Obamacare markets in 2018 or rely on legislative progress.
In a May 23 letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, advocacy association America’s Health Insurance Plans said, “While the AHCA takes some positive steps toward affordable access to high-quality coverage options, time is swiftly running out for the certainty needed for 2018.”
While analysis from the Congressional Budget Office says the House GOP bill would leave 23 million people uninsured, Pence said he thought that the CBO overestimated the number of people who would receive insurance through the government funded insurance exchanges under Obamacare.
Pence cited a report from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released Monday that says, as of March, nearly two million of the 12 million people who selected an insurance plan on a public exchange during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31 were unable to continue paying their premiums. The dropoff is somewhat in line with that of past years.
Pence later chided Democrats for their unwillingness to cooperate and “help us clean up the mess that they created.” During the president’s meeting with the handful of Republican senators, Trump echoed this view, calling Democrats “obstructionists,” and referring to their resistance as “unfortunate.”
Republican senators largely have been working behind closed doors to craft the legislation.
“The Senate is working very, very hard and specifically the folks in this room,” said Trump. “I really appreciate what you’re doing to come out with a bill that’s going to be a phenomenal bill to the people of our country.”
Katishi Maake: @KatishiMaake