President Trump said Sunday he feels like he’s gotten rid of Obamacare because the individual mandate penalty for shirking insurance was zeroed out by the GOP-controlled Congress three years ago.
“We’ve already essentially gotten rid of Obamacare, because we got rid of the individual mandate,” he said, referring to the 2017 tax law. “That’s no longer Obamacare because that was the central point.”
The mandate was the biggest flashpoint of the 2010 Affordable Care Act after it passed, serving as a catalyst for tea party protests and the landmark legal challenge in 2012.
But much of Obamacare remains intact after Mr. Trump and Republicans failed to repeal and replace the law after taking control of the White House and Congress in 2016.
People can still get income-based subsidies on web-based exchanges to buy private coverage, and millions of people are on Medicaid due to an Obamacare-driven expansion of the rolls in dozens of states that opted in.
The law still requires insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions — a reform that Mr. Trump embraced last week with an executive order saying those protections are standing U.S. policy.
But the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a new challenge to the health care law — shortly after Election Day — that says the entire program must be canceled because the mandate is no longer collecting revenue.
Mr. Trump is cheering the state-driven lawsuit, saying a ruling against Obamacare would clear the decks for a better, more affordable program.
“Which is what we’ll do,” Mr. Trump said.
It’s unclear how Mr. Trump would replace the law unless he gains full control of Congress. The Senate is controlled by the GOP but faces a series of tough races that could tilt the balance of power, while the Democrats may retain control of the House.
If the court strikes down Obamacare, Democratic leaders are likely to insist on fixes, leading to a thorny standoff and finger-pointing in Washington.