Trump abandons promise to ‘immediately’ fix Obamacare

“Very complicated.”

President Donald Trump listens to the Palm Beach Central High School Band as they play at his arrival at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, FL on Superbowl Sunday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump listens to the Palm Beach Central High School Band as they play at his arrival at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, FL on Superbowl Sunday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The extraordinary promises Donald Trump made on the campaign trail have met reality. Trump told a Las Vegas crowd the night before the Nevada caucus in February 2016 that he would replace Obamacare “immediately” after taking office with “great health care for a fraction of the price”:

“Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced. We’re going to have a strong country again and Obamacare has to go. We can’t afford it, it’s no good. You’re going to end up with great health care for a fraction of the price and that’s gonna take place immediately after we go in. Okay? Immediately. Fast. Quick.”

But Trump supporters waiting for this promised immediate replacement of the Affordable Care Act will have to wait until 2018, the president admitted this week.

The admission came in his pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly:

O’REILLY: Can Americans in 2017 expect a new health care plan rolled out by the Trump administration, this year?

TRUMP: In the process, and maybe it’ll take until some time into next year, but we are certainly gonna be in the process. Very complicated. Obamacare is a disaster. You have to remember, Obamacare doesn’t work. You look at Arizona, 116% increase, you look at Minnesota, all of these places, it’s gone through the roof. It doesn’t work — if I did nothing —

O’REILLY: When are you going to have something ready?

TRUMP: In fact the best thing politically to do is nothing for two years, let it explode, and then say now we’re gonna come in and save you. Then the Democrats, Schumer and everybody would be begging for help. But it’s not fair to the people. I think we have to go sooner. So we are putting in a wonderful plan. It statutorily takes a while to get. In other words, statute, you have to wait, have to wait 30 days, 90 days. We’re gonna be putting it in fairly soon. I think that, yes, I would like to say, by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year. And by the way, we will have something that’s good, less expensive, and really great health care.

The Affordable Care Act, which has helped as many as 20 million people get insurance who did not have it prior to its passage, and improved the coverage of tens of millions more, is proving harder to dismantle than Trump seems to have anticipated.

The discrepancy between Trump’s promises and his current timeline was not addressed in the interview. After Trump’s answer, O’Reilly moved onto the next question without a follow-up. He told the New York Post that this was intentional:

Look, you can only take something up to the line. Not cross it. As he answers you can’t push him as you would an ordinary citizen, nor can you give him jazz as with anyone else. You go to the next question. You must respect the office.

Congressional Republicans began the slow process to repeal parts of the landmark legislation in January, before Trump was sworn into office. The initial budgetary process is a lower hurdle for the GOP because it requires a simple majority and is not subject to filibuster in the Senate. But Republicans can only change parts of the law relating to spending, revenues, and debt — anything more substantive requires Congress to pass a new law.

There is a great deal of confusion over what that law would be, and how it would do all the things Republicans have promised it would do while being different from Obamacare. A recent report found that repealing the law could cost many states up to 1.2 million jobs.

Republicans have also been chased out of their town meetings, sometimes confronted by hundreds angry constituents who like Obamacare, and one Virginia Congressman who was not holding town hall meetings said Obamacare repeal plans meant “the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

Trump’s bold declaration about the immediate replacement of Obamacare in Nevada was not an isolated incident.

In October 2016, Trump promised to fight to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare within the first 100 days of his administration in Gettysburg, PA.

He also broke a promise made in Florida that month to immediately ask Congress for legislation to repeal and replace the law: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.”

Trump even promised, in the week before the election, to ask Congress to convene a special session to replace Obamacare:

“When we win on November 8th and elect a Republican congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me, for you, and for everybody in this country because Obamacare has to be replaced and we will do it and we will do it very, very quickly.”

In his announcement speech, began to list “various things” he would do “very quickly,” starting off with repealing and replacing “the big lie, Obamacare.”

NBC News reported on Monday that the areas of the country that supported Trump most strongly are the areas most likely to be hurt by an Obamacare repeal.