Rep. Tom Rice said Monday he was worried that President Donald Trump would use a pending lawsuit, born of a bill the South Carolina Republican introduced, to force Obamacare into a death spiral before Congress agrees on a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.
When Rice was a freshman lawmaker in 2014, he introduced the STOP Resolution, which launched legal action against then-President Barack Obama for what Republicans in the House of Representatives considered to be executive action beyond his constitutional authority.
Specifically, the Republican-controlled House alleged the Obama administration was spending money that had not been appropriated to reimburse health insurers.
The case that followed – House v. Burwell – went to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which ruled against the administration. The administration appealed, leaving the district court ruling simply sitting there, unenforced.
The Trump administration can choose to drop the appeal at any moment, and if it does, the government could stop reimbursing those health insurers that are providing subsidized coverage to low-income policyholders. That alone could send the ACA into a tailspin.
It’s something Rice wants to avoid.
“My goal has always been to move us from Obamacare, which is patently unsustainable, into something that is sustainable,” Rice told McClatchy. “My preference would be not to instantly kill Obamacare and leave millions of people without health coverage. My preference would be to provide a meaningful transition from Obamacare to something that is more sustainable, a reasonable replacement.”
Rice would have supported the appeal being dropped had House Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act passed last month. Now that it hasn’t, Rice worries that a repeal without a replacement could leave 30 million uninsured.
Rice said he was not sure how likely the Trump administration was to use this option, but he expects the administration to be careful about offering alternatives to the ACA. He argued that the ACA would eventually fall apart on its own, whether Trump’s administration uses this option or not.
“The Freedom Caucus wants to repeal it and worry about replacement later. I would rather have in place a reasonable bypass to minimize disruption from the health care system,” Rice said.