After the Department of Justice backed a federal judge's ruling this week that the entire Affordable Care Act should be overturned, Congressional Democrats are blasting the administration, while some Republicans are even expressing reservations about the shift in policy and scrambling to come up with an alternative.
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly phoned President Donald Trump to convey his disagreement with the Department of Justice’s support to overturn the entire law, according to Axios.
“I think "Obamacare" is a failure,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, refusing to specify the details of his conversation with the president. “I think we need to replace it. We need to make sure we protect preexisting conditions. We need to make sure that we lower the costs. We need transparency. We need patience to have a relationship with their doctor.”
McCarthy said he was meeting later Wednesday afternoon with ranking Republican members from committees of jurisdiction, “working on making sure we have our health care bill out there.”
“We’re working on it right now,” McCarthy said. “I think health care is an important issue for all Americans. We want to make sure that all Americans have the ability to have greater choice, lower costs and higher quality and that’s what we’re working towards.”
After suffering through a prolonged fight over health care in 2017, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she is unhappy with the Trump administration’s renewal of the health care fight.
Collins, who joined moderate Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and the-late John McCain to tank the GOP’s last effort to repeal and replace "Obamacare," told ABC News that she is "very disappointed in the administration's decision" to try and strike down the law through the courts.
“I know the president has said that he wants the Republican party to be the party of health care, and I'm glad to hear him say that -- but it seems to me the cart is before the horse here," Collins said. "If he has some good ideas for improving the ACA or our system of health care in this country, then those initiatives need to be put forth first before you try to strike down the entire ACA.”
Collins made clear she believes this is a fight for Congress, not the courts.
“It is highly irregular and unusual for the department not to defend the duly enacted laws of this country regardless of whether or not the president agrees with those laws,” Collins said. “This is a major departure from the traditions of the department and I disagree with it. That's not to say that the ACA is perfect, it has led to higher premiums. There are a number of problems with the law that should be remedied, but this approach of trying to strike down the law in its entirety in the courts is not the right way to go.”
Democrats worry that millions of Americans could lose their insurance if the law is struck without a safety net in place to help people who currently rely on "Obamacare" -- a frustration that is shared throughout the Democratic caucus, with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York telling ABC News that she’s “upset.”
“I’m not shocked because this entire administration and the Republican Party seems hell-bent on making health care more expensive and skyrocketing prescription drug prices because they care more about corporate profits than they do about the livability and cost of living of American people,” Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News. “This means that insulin is going to get more expensive. This means that less people are going to be covered by health insurance. And this is putting people’s lives at risk. So, I’m not surprised but I am disappointed, and I’m upset.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., whose late husband was a driving force behind passing the landmark health care law in 2010, said she is “simply stunned” and expressed exasperation on behalf of people who rely on "Obamacare" to obtain health insurance.
“Here’s the fact of the matter: Too many people are worrying what’s going to happen to them," Dingell said. "They can be denied health care, so outrage is probably the best word to use to describe how I feel right now.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the paramount goal for Congress should be to ensure pre-existing conditions are covered while the ACA court battle rages.
“I think we can make some very important steps to assure people that pre-existing conditions are going to be covered and at the same time lower the cost of health care for family budgets,” Alexander said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill, agreed that Congress shouldn’t wait for the judicial branch to settle the score.
“I think the American people have suffered under "Obamacare" for far too long, and we shouldn’t have to wait for the courts,” Gaetz, R-Fla., said, urging lawmakers to begin working on replacement legislation. “We should get legislation moving that can improve choice and that can lower costs.”
“Obamacare" hasn’t worked for the American people. We’ve seen rising prices. We’ve seen worse health care outcomes in many cases, and we’ve seen a private market collapse in terms of choices for the American people,” Gaetz added. “We definitely need a better system, and hopefully we’ll be able to get that going forward.”
While the showdown is almost certain to drag on into the 2020 election, Ocasio-Cortez signaled that Democrats shouldn’t wait for the Supreme Court to hear the matter and should use their House majority to pass legislation to protect the law.
“What we’re trying to do, I think, is respond immediately and have a legislative response as things work their way through the courts,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We’re trying to shore up and strengthen the ACA.”
Buckling up for a political fight, McCarthy pivoted his energy towards opposing proposals by some progressives to expand access to Medicare.
“The real fear I have is the Democrats’ plan of Medicare for all, that they’re going to take away all the private health insurance,” McCarthy said. “Now they want to take away any of that private health insurance ... from individuals with their Medicare for all, and that’s a scary situation for all of us.”