House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised Thursday that a replacement for the Affordable Care Act will be legislated this year, although he made no commitment about when the law would be implemented.
In response to a question about whether Ryan could commit that repealing and replacing Obamacare would be finished by the end of the 115th Congress, Ryan said the "legislating will occur this year."
"Our legislating on Obamacare, our repealing and replacing and transitioning, the legislating, will occur this year," Ryan said. "What date all of this gets phased in something we do not now know."
Ryan said Thursday that Republicans need to wait for the Trump administration to be fully confirmed. And he said members want to be careful to give insurance companies time to adjust to a new program. Republicans have previously floated the idea of a two- to four-year transition between Obamacare and Republicans' alternative – a strategy that has been nicknamed repeal and delay.
Republicans' immediate plan is to move forward with repealing Obamacare right away, and have it to President-elect Donald Trump by the end of February for his signature, but the question of what they will replace it with has been central to the entire debate. Democrats have criticized Republicans' inability to coalesce around an alternative even though it has been a key tenet of their campaign promises for years. Even some rank and file Republicans have expressed dismay that they will vote to gut Obamacare without a clear plan for what comes next.
Ryan wouldn't commit to what his plan would fully do. When asked if the same amount of people would be covered under the Republican plan, Ryan dodged the question.