Sen. Lamar Alexander Says Repeal Obamacare ‘Only When Reforms Are in Place’

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Republicans should create a “rescue crew” for people who rely on Obamacare before Congress repeals President Obama’s signature legislation, says the chairman of the Senate committee which oversees health care.

“Obamacare should be repealed finally only when there are concrete, practicable reforms in place that give every American access to truly affordable health care,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who heads the chamber’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Alexander said:

Now, how should we approach this? Following the presidential election, President-elect Trump said on 60 Minutes that replacement and repeal of Obamacare would be done – quote – “simultaneously.” To me, that means at the same time. And then just today Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that repeal and replacement of Obamacare would be done concurrently. To me, “simultaneously” and “concurrently” mean Obamacare should finally be repealed, only when there are concrete, practical steps, reforms in place, that give Americans access to truly affordable health care.

Likening Obamacare’s course of self-destruction to that of a bridge collapse, Alexander asked what would be done in that case. He continued:

I think the first thing you’d think is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt. Then you’d start building a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, as states develop their own plans for providing truly affordable health care to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished, you’d close the old bridge. That’s how we propose to proceed. To rescue those trapped in a failing system – that’s Obamacare – to replace that system with a functional market or markets, and then repeal Obamacare for good.”

Alexander emphasized that Obamacare will not be replaced by just one “system.”

“If anyone is expecting Sen. McConnell to roll a wheelbarrow onto the Senate floor with a Republican healthcare plan, they’re going to be waiting a long time because we don’t believe in that,” he said.

Alexander said 61 percent – or 178 million – Americans are currently receiving healthcare through their employers, while 22 percent – 62 million – are on Medicaid.

He added that 18 percent – 52 million – of Americans are on Medicare, and 6 percent – 18 million – have individual plans.

Only 11 million individuals – or 4 percent of the total insured – currently get their insurance coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, Alexander said.

In November, Alexander predicted it would take years to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that a new healthcare law would need to be a bipartisan effort.

“I imagine [it] will take several years to completely make that sort of transition to make sure we do no harm, create a good healthcare system that everyone has access to and we repeal the parts of Obamacare that need to be repealed,” Alexander said, according to The Hill.

“What we need to do is make lower-cost insurance available to most Americans,” he added. “The exchanges are the problem. They need to be repealed; the individual mandate needs to be repealed. … But I think what we need to focus on first is what we would replace it with and what are the steps we would take to do that.”



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