By Richard Cowan & David Morgan
WASHINGTON – Legislation to repeal Obamacare and replace major portions of the healthcare program will be unveiled after a 10-day U.S. House of Representatives recess that begins on Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday.
Republicans, who control both House and Senate, have been struggling to come up with a detailed plan for replacing former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy that they have vowed to repeal.
“After the House returns following the Presidents Day break, we intend to introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Ryan said at his weekly press conference. Presidents Day is on Monday and the House returns on Feb. 27.
Ryan spoke shortly after many House Republicans huddled in a closed session with newly-installed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act and their options to change it.
The session was part pep talk and part laying out of talking points that can be delivered to constituents during the recess.
Lawmakers left the meeting saying there was plenty more work ahead on thorny issues, including squeezing savings from the Medicaid health plan for the elderly and disabled and possibly cutting some healthcare tax credits.
Republican President Donald Trump’s administration has gone through a succession of controversies since he was sworn in on Jan. 20, including his travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, while Republicans in Congress labored over replacing Obamacare and reforming an outdated tax system.
Hoping to quell any jitters, Price, who served in the House before becoming HHS secretary, told Republican lawmakers that on Obamacare repeal, “The president is all in on this…let’s go shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm,” according to a source who attended the meeting.
But they do not know yet what exactly they will be joining forces on.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady told reporters there are “a range of options” for giving states more say over the operation of Medicaid, which has become an important tool for delivering medical coverage under Obamacare.
Brady said there were also various options for ways to offset the costs of a Republican plan, such as capping the tax exclusion for employer-based healthcare plans.
Nevertheless, Brady said that going in to the recess, “I think we succeeded in giving our members a very in-depth view of what the replacement parts will be and a very in-depth range of options for how to achieve it.”