McConnell: ‘We’ll Probably Move On’ From Obamacare Repeal Effort In 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talks with the media after Senate Republicans met with President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Thursday that Senate Republicans would “probably move on to other issues” rather than attempting again to fully repeal Obamacare in 2018.

In an interview with NPR, McConnell said Republicans’ overhaul of the tax code — which repeals Obamacare’s crucial individual mandate, in addition to showering corporations and the wealthy in tax breaks — “takes the heart out of Obamacare.”

Without that provision, which penalized individuals who did not have health insurance and also did not qualify for a fee waiver, experts have estimated that costs on Obamacare’s individual markets will skyrocket, especially for those with higher medical expenses. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in November that repealing the individual mandate would leave 13 million more people uninsured by 2027 compared to the status quo.

“We obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate,” McConnell said, before referring to the election of Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) earlier this month. “We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate. But I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”

Separately, the majority leader said “[w]e want to steady the insurance markets if we can … and I think we’ll probably be addressing that part of healthcare sometime next year.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) originally conditioned her vote in support of Republicans’ tax bill on three provisions to stabilize the insurance market: First, temporarily restoring subsidies to insurance companies ended earlier this year by President Donald Trump; second, establishing a temporary national reinsurance program; and third, preventing deep cuts to Medicare triggered by the tax bill’s huge expense. 

She eventually settled for McConnell and Trump’s promised future support for the measures, though House Republicans have said the first two are dead on arrival. The House voted Thursday to avoid the Medicare cuts by including a waiver for the Pay-As-You-Go Act, or PAYGO, in the continuing resolution they approved to fund the government.