Key GOP Chair Is Slowly Getting His Way On Obamacare

Tom Williams

On Tuesday night, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) delivered the most detailed plan yet we've heard from a Republican since the election on how to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Alexander's points were clear. He didn't want to repeal Obamacare until a new plan was in place, he wanted to ensure that Republicans didn't just replace Obamacare with a 2,000-page-bill, but slowly, and he wanted to give states the ability to set their own standards on Medicaid and what counts as health insurance. He urged the federal government to keep giving subsidies to insurers to cover low income people. You can read more about what it does here.

But Alexander's extensive plan prompted the question, how many Republicans are with him? On Wednesday night, Alexander gave us an answer.

"I am doing what I think the chairman of the HELP Committee ought to do in the middle of a debate about repealing and replacing Obamacare," Alexander said. "Obviously, I wouldn't be making these suggestions if I didn't think they had a good chance of representing the view of enough Republicans to help us get to 51 votes, but we're still working on it."

Alexander said Republicans are still having to figure out the best way to work with President-elect Trump and the House, but he wanted to make sure that he was on the record supporting something.

"We're coming to more of a consensus, and if I had to sum it up I'd say we want to speed up the replacement. More and more Republicans are saying, 'We want to see more of the replacement before we vote for repeal, number one, and number 2 we want to deal with it – as Senator McConnell said– in manageable chunks,'" Alexander said. "Medicare is one chunk, the individual market is one chunk, which needs a rescue plan, and if we think about it that way, we can pretty quickly get to thinking about how we can begin to repair the damage Obamacare's done."

Alexander's plan revolves around moving health care decisions "from Washington back to the states."

"We want to make sure we do it right and the American people deserve, not just a quick fix, but a real long-term solution," Alexander said.

Alexander's overarching point is that Republicans are not going to "repeal anything effectively until there is a concrete, practical alternative in place for Americans to choose."

That is a huge shift from what Republicans were saying before the holiday. Alexander has been warning his colleagues for a long time about repealing Obamacare too quickly. It seems like they are starting to listen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Fox is a reporter at Talking Points Memo.
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