U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday put renewed pressure on congressional Republicans working to repeal Obamacare, insisting that lawmakers pass a replacement for the healthcare law at the same time or soon after they vote to dismantle it.
In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said he wanted a substitute for President Barack Obama's healthcare law done "very quickly or simultaneously" to the vote to get rid of it.
With Trump preparing to succeed Obama on Jan. 20, Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, face a dilemma.
They have a chance to make good on their promise to gut the 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare and have taken some initial steps to clear the decks for such action.
But reaching agreement among Republicans for replacement legislation likely will prove harder than passing a repeal. If Republicans are unable to put in place a substitute, millions of Americans who receive healthcare under Obamacare may be at risk of losing coverage.
The law extended insurance coverage to uninsured Americans by expanding the Medicaid program for the poor and creating online exchanges where consumers can shop for private health insurance plans. The law also provides for subsidies to help individuals and families afford coverage purchased on the exchanges.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that some elements of an insurance substitute likely would be ready when lawmakers vote to repeal Obamacare, but other aspects would take longer. Some Republican lawmakers have said it could take up to two years to come up with a replacement.
Trump said in the New York Times interview that a delay of that length was unacceptable.
"It won't be repeal and then two years later go in with another plan," he said, according to the paper.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Trump's comments were "not inconsistent" with lawmakers' plans.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on a budget measure that would direct committees to draft Obamacare repeal legislation shortly. If the measure passes the Senate, it would go to the House for a vote, probably on Friday, House Republican aides said.
Ryan said on Tuesday that lawmakers would pass whatever replacement plan provisions they can along with the repeal, and do the rest of Obamacare replacement in other legislation.
"It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently," Ryan told reporters. "We need to make sure there is a stable transition period so that people do not have the rug pulled out from under them."
But Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who leads the finance panel, said Senate rules could make it difficult to put replacement provisions in the repeal bill.
"If he can come up with something that would help push this forward, I'd be all for it," Hatch said of Ryan.