Trump administration shifts tone on Obamacare, signals openness to bipartisan 'fix'


Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times

Aug 9, 2017


The Trump administration, thwarted in several attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, notably shifted tone Wednesday, opening the door for a bipartisan plan to "fix" the law.


The change came even as a fight escalated between President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over who is to blame for the Republican Party's failure to repeal Obamacare.


"Both folks in the House and the Senate, on both sides of the aisle frankly, have said that Obamacare doesn't work, and it needs to be either repealed or fixed," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on the Fox News program “Fox & Friends.” "So the onus is on Congress," he said.


Talk of fixing the law is new for most Republicans. Price and President Trump have long focused only on repealing or replacing it.


The Republican-controlled Congress, despite seven years of campaign promises, has been unable to come up with a repeal plan that can pass both chambers. And Democrats, who see the law as a signature accomplishment for both Obama and their party, have been unwilling to participate in a repeal effort.


Both sides agree that changes are needed to stabilize insurance markets. Large insurers have pulled out of several markets, leaving some consumers with few or no plans from which to choose.


White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not back away from Price's wording when asked whether the administration is serious about a plan to fix the law, rather than repeal it.


"We are always looking for best ways to improve and fix the broken Obamacare system," she said in an email.


A spokeswoman for Price, Alleigh Marre, said Price, in his interview, "was characterizing the position of folks in Congress from both sides of the aisle who recognize Obamacare is failing." She did not provide details of which fixes Price would find acceptable.


The shift comes soon after lawmakers intensified their own bipartisan efforts. Last week, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee’s senior Democrat, announced plans to begin working on legislation to stabilize the markets.


Industry officials have said a fix could include at least four components:


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