'No Point in Pushing the Panic Button': Mitch McConnell Says Health Care Plan Is Off the Table Despite Obamacare Uncertainty

Mitch McConnell, health care, Affordable Care Act
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference following a weekly policy luncheon on April 2 in Washington, DC. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Despite the Trump administration saying the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, should be ruled unconstitutional, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the GOP did not intend to create a comprehensive health care plan to replace the law should it be struck down in the courts, leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

President Donald Trump said that Senate Republicans had been devising a broad health care plan to replace the ACA following the Justice Department's agreement with the ruling of a federal judge in Texas that nullified the law in its entiretly. McConnell, however, said that during a conversation with Trump on Monday, he "made it clear" to the president that the Senate was "not going to be doing that.

"We don't have a misunderstanding about that. We will not be doing a comprehensive plan in the Senate," McConnell told reporters.

He said Senate Republicans going forward would support preserving coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and lower prescription drug prices. But a comprehensive overhaul was out of the question, McConnell said, because of previous failed attempts during the last Congress when the party controlled both chambers. McConnell said that health care was something the Republicans "had the opportunity to address last Congress and were unable to do so."

The president later "accepted that," McConnell said, adding that he supported Trump's intent to push a broader health care plan after the 2020 elections.

"The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words, it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House… The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare [sic]."

When the new Republican tax law in 2017 eliminated the individual mandate penalty (a major pillar of the original health care law), a federal judge in Texas last year ruled that the ACA was unconstitutional.

Previously, the Justice Department had argued that only the requirement to cover patients with pre-existing conditions and to cover them at equal cost to healthier patients was unconstitutional. But in a new filing last week, the department went a step further, saying it supported the judge's decision to rule the entire law unconstitutional and would not issue a challenge as it headed through the appeals process. The case will most likely reach the Supreme Court.

Despite the wide-reaching implications of the Supreme Court striking down the signature health care law, including knocking millions of people off their health insurance and no longer protecting people with pre-existing conditions, McConnell said Americans should not fear losing coverage in the immediate future. The majority leader said he believed the case would be tied up in the courts for the near future.

"There's no point in pushing the panic button," he said. "The court system takes a long time to resolve these issues."

Even though Republicans do not and will not have a plan to replace the ACA anytime soon, Democrats said they were more than happy to campaign on the issue of health care as they head into 2020, seeing it as the issue that helped them regain control of the House in last November's election.

"They do have a plan. Their plan is to repeal the ACA with no replacement," Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters. "We will say those words every single day for the next year and a half."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump and Senate Republicans announcing they planned to hold off on addressing health care until 2021 amounted to the party admitting it had "no health care plan" and was the "same-old song they've been singing—they're for repeal but no replace."