WASHINGTON: Donald Trump will begin the process of repealing Obamacare on day one, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told Republican lawmakers on Wednesday, even as Trump cautioned against hasty dismantling of the controversial health care law.
“The first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Pence told reporters in the US Capitol shortly after meeting with House Republicans, as he explained Trump’s plan to enter the White House and immediately take executive action on a number of fronts, including health care.
With Trump taking office January 20, the battle kicked off Wednesday on Capitol Hill over President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act that extended medical coverage to tens of millions of Americans.
Obama himself huddled with congressional allies to discuss their strategy for defending the health care law at the same time as Pence was delivering what one Republican called an anti-Obamacare “pep rally” to the party faithful.
The US president met with Democrats for one hour and 40 minutes, and while he was not eager to answer questions, he said he would urge the incoming Republican administration to “look out for the American people.”
Pence meanwhile reiterated the warnings Trump made in a tweet earlier in the day, saying Democrats were responsible for Obamacare and that Republicans should not put millions of families in further financial jeopardy by repealing the health care law before they have a viable alternative in place.
“It will be important that we be careful as we do that, that we do that in a way that doesn’t work a hardship on American families who gained insurance through this program,” Pence said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans should be mindful not to worsen the situation caused by the “failed” law, which is blamed for rising insurance premiums and a string of technical problems.
“We’ve got to fix this by replacing it with something better. In that transition we want to make sure we don’t pull the rug out from anybody,” the speaker said.
Earlier in the day Trump suggested Republicans would do well to wait until they have a ready alternative before tearing up the existing law.
“Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster, with its poor coverage and massive premium increases,” he said on Twitter.
“Massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight – be careful!”
Congressman Chris Collins said the party was looking at a six-month timeline for crafting an Obamacare alternative, but other lawmakers said that was far too ambitious.
“I think they’re going to start moving as quickly as they can,” said congressman Tom Cole. “I’m for anything that gets rid of it and replaces it with something better.”