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John Boehner: Repealing Obamacare just ‘happy talk’

Revisions possible but outright repeal won’t happen, former House speaker says.

Despite repeated Republican pledges to scrap the 2010 health law, former House Speaker John Boehner said most of the law known as Obamacare “is going to stay there” because GOP lawmakers have never agreed on what to replace it with.

Boehner Obamacare

At a health care conference Thursday in Orlando, Fla., Boehner warned that Republicans will take the political blame for breaking the current health care system if they cannot immediately approve a substitute to take its place.

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Boehner, who represented West Chester until his retirement in 2015, said “all this happy talk” among Republicans after the November election that they should promptly cancel Obamacare and later pass a substitute made him laugh “because if you pass repeal without replace, first anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

He said he bluntly told congressional GOP leaders that if they “pass repeal without replace, you’ll never pass replace because they will never ever agree on what the bill should be,” Boehner said. “The perfect always becomes the enemy of the good. And so you’ve got to marry them together, that’s the only chance you’ll get it done.”

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never ever one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like,” said Boehner. “Not once.”

Instead, Boehner flatly predicted “most of” what is called the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 “is going to stay there,” including allowing those under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans and federal financial help for middle-income people to buy their own individual plans.

Boehner’s remarks, delivered during a healthcare information technology conference, were made available on a video tape by the sponsor, HIMSS-17.

Boehner’s comments reflect growing doubts among Republicans that they can muster the votes in the House and Senate to scrap and fully replace the law, which provides health-care coverage to more than 20 million Americans — including about a million people in Ohio — who were without health coverage before Obama signed it into law.

The law expanded coverage through federally subsidized private insurance plans and an expansion of Medicaid, the joint state and federal program that provides health coverage to low-income people.

Boehner’s remarks placed him at odds with House GOP conservatives such as Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, who took part in an effort to topple Boehner from the speaker’s chair in 2015.

In a statement released after learning of Boehner’s comments, Jordan said “now that Republicans control both Congress and the White House, it would be unacceptable to send anything less than a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare to the president’s desk.”

David Schnittger, a Boehner spokesman, said Boehner “has every confidence that congressional Republicans and President Trump will right the many wrongs of Obamacare, whether your preference is to call it a repair, a replacement, or something else.”

“His point was that the process of doing it from start to finish will not be an instantaneous one, and I think that’s already been borne out by recent developments."

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