WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday declared Obamacare “dead” and “gone,” but urged Republicans and Democrats in Congress to craft a short-term fix of healthcare markets under the 7-year-old law that critics say he has effectively sabotaged.
“It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer - you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone,” Trump said of former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law that Republicans have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said: “I think we’ll have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting together.”
Trump also said he would work to lower prescription drug prices, which he said were “out of control.” He did not provide details.
Last week, the Republican president said he would stop Obamacare’s federal subsidy payments to insurers, which are designed to help lower-income people afford health insurance.
Trump said that in stopping the subsidies, he was cutting off the “gravy train” for insurers.
But Democrats and some Republicans said Trump’s move to cancel the payments would hurt poor and middle-class people and cause premiums to soar.
Democratic attorneys general from 18 states as well as Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Friday to preserve the payments.
Trump vowed during his 2016 presidential campaign to kill Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, but his fellow Republicans in Congress have been unable to pass legislation to replace it with a more limited healthcare program.
Republicans call Obamacare intrusive and ineffective. Democrats defend the law, saying it extended health insurance to millions of Americans.
Trump said his goal was to make healthcare more affordable and “that’s what we are doing” by encouraging a bipartisan short-term fix followed by a Republican-only long-term program to be enacted during the first part of next year.
It was not yet clear whether the Republican-controlled Congress would agree to help shore up Obamacare and reinstate the subsidies.
Congress is already grappling with a crowded agenda that includes tax reform and paying for relief efforts for California’s wildfires and hurricanes that hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he was hopeful that a deal was near to stabilize Obamacare.
“If he’s (Trump) now supportive of an agreement that stabilizes and improves the existing system under the Affordable Care Act, we certainly welcome that change of heart,” Schumer said in a statement.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray have been trying to craft a bipartisan deal aimed at helping stabilize health insurance markets under Obamacare.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Alexander said: “I hope we can get a result,” but added that any deal he crafted with Murray would have to win the support of rank-and-file senators.
He said he and Murray were trying to strike a deal that “extends cost-sharing payments for two years and gives states meaningful flexibility” in administering Obamacare.
Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney