House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) admitted on Thursday that repealing President Obama’s signature health reform law “isn’t the answer” because it’s too late to roll back all of the changes it’s had on the insurance industry over the past several years.
“Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight,” Boehner told a group of his constituents at a Rotary Club meeting in his home district.
Boehner suggested that House Republicans need to work to transition “back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do,” but noted that will take some time.
A spokesperson for the speaker downplayed the comments. “For four years now the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace,” Boehner’s office told Roll Call.
But there’s been a lot of inconsistency within that overall top line position. Even though House Republicans have repeatedly promised to unveil an Obamacare replacement plan — and suggested it will be able to preserve the most popular benefits in the law — that policy hasn’t yet materialized. It’s been difficult for the party to unite around one health plan. Some Republican congressmembers have expressed frustration that it’s taking so long, and even Fox News recently demanded to know why the GOP hasn’t released an alternative yet.
And Boehner himself has certainly sent some mixed messages on the topic. Right after President Obama was reelected, Boehner conceded that Obamacare is “the law of the land” and suggested that House Republicans’ strategy to get rid of it would have to significantly change. Last year, as right-wing members of his party threatened to force a government shut down in an attempt to repeal Obamacare, the Ohio lawmaker initially resisted but eventually gave in to those demands.
Obamacare’s first open enrollment season concluded at the beginning of this month. An estimated 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage under the law, and any effort to dismantle it would likely result in people being kicked off their current plans. Most Americans, even those who live in red states, don’t support completely repealing health reform.