Ryan Says Congress’s Role in Replacing Obamacare Will Finish ‘This Year’

Amid concerns of cold feet in the congressional GOP and noncommittal comments from President Donald Trump, House speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday the House and Senate would conclude their role in repealing and replacing Obamacare by the end of 2017, but cautioned that implementing a new regime will occur on the executive branch’s timeline.

“I think there’s a little confusion here. The legislating is going to be done this year. We are going to be done legislating with respect to health care and Obamacare this year. The question is, how long does it take to implement the full replacement of Obamacare,” Ryan told reporters. He used the opportunity to comment on the pending confirmation of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, which will play a central role in executing the laws Congress passes that eliminate and succeed the Affordable Care Act.

“The question about how long it takes to effectuate the change, how long it takes to put these things in place, that’s a question that the HHS can answer. But as far as legislating is concerned, we are going to do our legislating this year.”

Trump said during a weekend interview with Fox News that he expected at least “the rudiments” of Obamacare replacement to be addressed in 2017. But he added “we should have something within the year and the following year.”

Those remarks came after days of concern among the right that Capitol Hill Republicans were softening on health care reform. CNN published a story Thursday quoting several GOP leaders in Congress who used terms like “piece-by-piece” and “repair” to describe their efforts to legislate on the issue, a contrast with the consistent “repeal and replace” rhetoric conservatives have used in campaigning for election and against Obamacare. “We’re looking at fixing this mess a brick at a time. Piece by piece. Taking our time to get it right,” said Oregon representative Greg Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the panels that oversees the law.

Ryan made several declarations Tuesday that seemed to match his colleague’s description of the House’s activity. “The good news is we actually ran on a plan to replace Obamacare. And now our committees are in the midst of actually putting that plan together,” he said.

“Take a look at our plan for preexisting conditions with high risk pools. We think it’s far superior. Take a look at our plan for refundable tax credits so people can get affordable health care insurance. Take a look at our plan for more insurance competition, so we can actually have competition in the marketplace, so we can get prices down,” he continued.

He also used the term “piece-by-piece” by a different name multiple times.

“There is no excuse for getting this wrong. That is why, as promised, we are taking action step-by-step,” he said.