It’s pretty obvious that the Trump administration has no real plan for what to do next should the federal courts overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — just look at who the president put in charge of the replacement plan.
Last week, President Donald Trump said a team of GOP senators will craft legislation that will replace the ACA, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). But on Monday, Scott said he’s actually more interested in improving the current health law.
Scott revealed his commitment to Obamacare in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Monday:
Inskeep: Let’s talk about what the Republican approach really is here. From talking with other Senate Republicans, we get the impression the idea is to really stop trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and just find some narrower improvements in the existing system — is that a fair description?
Scott: Well that’s what I’m doing.
Scott then went to talk about the importance of lowering drug prices.
The only plan Scott wants to talk about is the Transparent Drug Pricing Act, a bill he introduced last week that would require insurers to cover patients’ upfront costs of prescription drugs at the pharmacy and demand manufacturers match lower international prices.
He promoted his bill again on CBS Face the Nation on Sunday. When CBS’ Margaret Brennan tried to get Scott to talk about the ACA replacement plan, he punted to the president. “I look forward to seeing what the president’s going to put out,” he said.
Brennan tried to clarify whether that means he’s waiting on the White House to come up with a proposal first, but Scott dodged the question, saying, “What I’m going to focus on is how do you drive down costs.”
Scott added that, in discussions about health care policy, Democrats focus too much on people’s access to insurance and not enough on lowering costs.
But the Trump administration is the one responsible for resurrecting the Obamacare repeal and replace conversation, after it sided with a Texas federal judge’s ruling that invalidates the entire 2010 health care law. In a legal filing last week, the administration asked a federal appeals court to scrap the law entirely.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have said they’re ready to work with Republicans to address drug prices, and House Democrats have been brainstorming health care reform legislation.
Scott is a strange choice to begin with on health care reform, given that he ran a hospital company that committed massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Scott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even after Scott told various reporters he is working within the confinements of the ACA, instead of focusing on replacement plans, Trump tweeted on Monday, “[g]ood things are going to happen!” Trump’s tweet tagged Scott, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
The White House’s proposed budget for 2020 does include Cassidy’s replacement plan, which didn’t make it through the Senate in 2017 and doesn’t have doesn’t have enough support to pass either chamber of Congress now. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill is unpopular because it cuts federal funding for Medicaid, the government-run program for people who are lower-income and have a disability. It also doesn’t adequately protect people with pre-existing conditions, as states would be able to skirt existing insurance marketplace rules.
It’s not surprising that the Trump administration doesn’t have a detailed health care plan yet. The Republican Party has spent the last decade trying — and failing — to come up with legislation to replace Obamacare.
At this point, some Republicans also appear doubtful about the possibility. Many Senate Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the Trump administration’s health care position, and one GOP aide told the Hill that Barrasso, Scott, and Cassidy are not actually working together to come up with a replacement plan.