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Azar Suggests Voters Go on Faith on What Would Replace Obamacare

June 28, 2020, 8:32 PM

The Trump administration doesn’t expect to release a detailed health care plan until the Supreme Court rules on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

That would leave voters in November’s election in the dark about how their health care, typically ranked as among the most important issues, might be upended in 2021 and beyond.

“We’ll work with Congress on a plan if the ACA is struck down,” Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’ll see what the Supreme Court rules.”

President Donald Trump’s administration last week told the Supreme Court that the ACA, better known as Obamacare, is invalid, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“The entire ACA thus must fall” because of a tax law change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017,” the administration said in a brief filed late Thursday.

The court is likely to hear the case around the time of the election, but potentially not until after election day on Nov. 3. A ruling could take months.

Trump and Azar have said repeatedly that any Obamacare replacement would protect people with pre-existing health conditions, without offering details. Under the ACA, insurers can’t refuse to cover a person or charge them more because of an existing health problem. They also can’t charge women more than men. Both scenarios were common before the ACA.

Pressed in a separate CNN interview about the absence of a plan, Azar said that “the exact details will be dependent on the -- frankly, the composition of Congress if and when the Supreme Court does strike down all or a large part of Obamacare.”

Read more: Trump at Odds With His Latest Drive to End Obamacare

Democrats rode the health care issue in the 2018 midterm elections to retake control of the House and they’re planning to do it again in November, when the White House and both chambers of Congress will be on the line.

Marc Thiessen, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said on “Fox News Sunday” that trying to repeal Obamacare in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic was “not smart.”

The timing was driven by the attorney general’s lawsuit, filed in 2018, which is coming to fruition this fall, “so they had to get the filing in,” Thiessen said. “But, no, it’s not good timing at all for the president.”

Obamacare is “becoming more and more popular, and Republicans have been talking about this for the past decade, about repealing Obamacare, and still have not coalesced around an alternative,” Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic Party strategist who’s now executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, said on Fox.

(Updates with strategists comments from 10th paragraph.)

--With assistance from Ben Brody.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net

Ros Krasny, Ian Fisher

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.