- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2019

President Trump dove head-first into the Obamacare wars Wednesday, saying he’s cleaned up the worst parts of the health law but it remains unworkable and must be replaced.

He said a court case that could invalidate the Affordable Care Act gives the GOP a chance to replace the 2010 law once and for all, after Republicans famously failed in Mr. Trump’s first year.

“The premiums cost too much, the deductible is horrible,” Mr. Trump said in freewheeling remarks at the White House. “If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that is far better than Obamacare.”

The president is referring to a case that’s currently pending before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Administration lawyers told the court this week that they will not defend any part of Obamacare, after a lower court in Texas had ruled that Congress’ decision to gut the “individual mandate” of any tax penalty should topple the rest of the law, including its vast expansion of Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats see a political opening in the fight. It allows them to relitigate an issue that favored them in the mid-term elections and move beyond Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

“The president wants to go back to repeal-and-replace again?” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “Make our day.”

Mr. Schumer on Wednesday said the Justice Department’s refusal to defend the federal law is a “moral and institutional outrage.”

He wants to force an early showdown over the law by offering an amendment to a disaster-relief spending bill that would prevent the Justice Department from siding with Obamacare opponents in the court case.

“Let’s see how our Republican colleagues vote on this,” Mr. Schumer said, daring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block the attempt.

Mr. Trump said he welcomes a renewed fight over the 2010 health law, arguing Republicans will become “the party of health care.”

The president has reshaped Obamacare over the past two years. He convinced Congress to gut Obamacare’s linchpin individual mandate, and then used his own executive powers to extend cheaper alternatives.

Yet he’s miffed about the survival of the law that bears his predecessor’s name.

A bid to repeal the law altogether and replace it with a slimmed-down government program failed in the Senate in summer 2017, after then-Sen. John McCain voted with Democrats to block the plan. Mr. Trump still complains about that vote in campaign rallies.

The president asked Senate Republicans this week to start devising a new replacement plan, though it’s unclear how much appetite there is for another bruising fight — the law is polling far better than it used to, and the Democrats who now control the House would reject any plan.

Mr. Trump said the lawsuit might force Congress to come to the table, as he grapples with implementing a program he detests.

Premiums have stabilized on the law’s insurance exchanges, though it’s still failing to attract the influx of young, healthy customers needed to drive costs down.

“We’re administrating Obamacare very well. We’ve made it better, but it’s still horrible, no good,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s something that we can’t live with in this country.”

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