- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2017

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan put reporters through a seminar Thursday, hoping to earn better coverage of the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare by explaining the problems with the existing law and describing how Congress is trying to wipe it clean.

With a clicker in hand, Mr. Ryan used his weekly press conference to take reporters through the failures of Obamacare, which for those who have to buy coverage on the health exchanges has meant soaring premiums and fewer choices.

“That’s called the death spiral,” he said.

He said Republicans could have allowed that to play out, which would have meant devastating changes to health insurance across the board. But instead, the GOP is going to step in now to try to rescue it before a collapse, the Wisconsin Republican said.

Mr. Ryan said they’re pursuing a “three-pronged approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare” that included the current bill being debate in committees this week, involves action by President Trump through regulations, and will eventually see other bills that would create new benefits — such as buying insurance across state lines.

Pushing back against conservative critics who say they want to see a different plan, he said they have to stick to tight rules on the first prong to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. But he said the other ideas can be part of the future bills.

He also warned against conservatives who say they will refuse to back a bill that falls short of everything they want.

“This is the cloest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he said. “It really comes down to a binary choice.”

House committees began voting on the GOP’s new proposal this week, but Mr. Ryan is still trying to keep his own Republican troops on board.

He promised those with preexisting conditions won’t lose their coverage, and young people will still be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26 — both popular parts of Obamacare.

But he said Medicaid, which dramatically expanded in most states under Obamacare, must be reeled in and returned to the states so they can figure out better ways to manage, and control costs, of the program.

Just before Mr. Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected the entire GOP bill, saying there wasn’t anything redeeming in it. She said it violated every goal of Obamacare: lower costs, better benefits and expanded numbers of people covered.

She also said it was President Trump’s own voters who were going to suffer under the Republican bill, calling it a massive “transfer of wealth” from red states to blue states. She said poor Republicans will lose coverage while rich people in Democratic states will see tax cuts with the repeal of Obamacare.

“Sadly, the people who will lose care if the Republican plan were to prevail, which I doubt it will, are people who voted for Donald Trump, many of them,” she said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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