Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the White House plans to release an Obamacare replacement plan before the 2020 election, after hosting top administration officials at Camp David over the weekend for a meeting on health care.
“I do think you’ll see a plan here fairly shortly,” Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday.”
White House aides and administration officials – including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – huddled at the historic Maryland property on Saturday to discuss the general path forward for President Trump’s health care policy, White House aides said.
The talks ranged from messaging strategies to lowering drug prices to individual health insurance marketplaces. And while Trump this week ruled out taking a vote on an Affordable Care Act alternative prior to the election amid Republican resistance to the prospect, Mulvaney said the forthcoming plan would provide GOP candidates with campaign fodder.
“Republicans have better ideas than Democrats. We should not be afraid to talk about that,” Mulvaney said on Fox News. “We want to run on this.”
Trump stunned Republicans late last month when he paired his administration’s decision to back an Obamacare court challenge with a call for the GOP to develop a legislative replacement. White House allies, lawmakers and even members of Trump’s own staff were caught off guard when the Justice Department filed a brief in court supporting the complete invalidation of the Affordable Care Act, without preparing anything to take its place should that ruling stand.
Unhappy with the President’s decision to plunge the party back into a battle it lost less than two years ago, Republicans said they would await guidance from the White House. Trump, in turn, said he would ask GOP senators to craft a plan – leaving the White House and Congress pointing fingers at each other over who should take the lead in writing health care policy.
White House aides have cited Graham-Cassidy, a health care proposal floated in 2017, as their starting point for the development of a plan. But even Trump’s legislative team was surprised by the news that the President wanted a renewed focus on health care, and the administration has scrambled to come up with a plan that did not exist before Trump waded back into the issue.
Top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, privately attempted to persuade Trump that a health care push would not only fail, but backfire on Republicans running up and down the ticket in 2020, multiple sources told CNN last week.
Trump on Wednesday claimed he never intended to request a vote before next year’s election, noting he had “very talented people” working on a replacement plan for him.
“It will be on full display during the Election as a much better & less expensive alternative to ObamaCare,” Trump tweeted. “This will be a great campaign issue.”
Democrats running in 2018 midterm races seized on voters’ concerns about health care, and their heavy focus on the issue helped propel enough candidates to victory in Republican-held districts that the GOP lost control of the House in November. Now, Democratic presidential hopefuls are spending significant time on the campaign trail talking about health care – with many candidates promoting universal programs like “Medicare for All.”
Mulvaney on Sunday argued Republicans, who tried unsuccessfully in 2017 to pass health care reform when they controlled both chambers of Congress, need competing ideas to present to voters in 2020.
“You can’t beat something with nothing,” he said.
“Democrats have already admitted that Obamacare doesn’t work – that’s why they’re out there talking about this amorphous Medicare for All,” he said.