WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump promised the nation’s governors Monday that his yet-to-be-revealed replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act would give states greater flexibility and thanked some Republicans in the room who advised him on health care.
“It’s an unbelievably complex subject,” he said. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
The remark likely surprised state leaders; spending on Medicaid alone was the second-biggest driver of increased state general fund spending, according to the 2016 Fiscal Survey of States conducted by the National Association of State Budget Officers.
And it was just eight years ago that Washington dove headfirst into a raging debate over health care reform under President Barack Obama, which simmered long after his signature health law was enacted.
But the finer points of health care policy are likely new to Trump, who is immersed in discussions with Republican leaders and his senior staff on that and other subjects ahead of his high-profile address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.
Trump offered no hint as to the details. Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare, but their effort has stalled as they debate how to do so and await word from the White House on what Trump wants to do.
The president seemed keenly aware of the political ramifications of whatever steps he takes.
“As soon as we touch it, if we do the most minute thing, just a tiny little change, what’s going to happen? They’re going to say it’s the Republicans’ problem,” Trump said after telling the governors the easiest thing for him to do would be nothing, and, in his view, watch the current health care law collapse.
“But we have to do what’s right because Obamacare is a failed disaster.”