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Obama Urges GOP Plan to Delay Its Repeal of Health Law

He makes appeal in interview; also calls GOP approach on issue ‘irresponsible’ in article published in the New England Journal of Medicine

The Wall Street Journal
By Stephanie Armour

President Barack Obama urged Republicans to delay their repeal of his signature health law, saying Friday that Americans deserve to know the details of what will replace the Affordable Care Act before the GOP knocks it down.

Mr. Obama, in a live interview on the news website Vox, said Republicans repeatedly promised they could do better but have failed to put out a stronger plan. He said it would be hard for the GOP to craft a better, cheaper proposal that leaves everyone satisfied, but that he would publicly support it if they do.

“You don’t want a situation where they make a promise they can’t keep,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve worked on this a long time. If we have a better way to do this, we would have done it. It would have been in my interest to do it, because I knew I would be judged by how it worked.”

His interview was part of an aggressive 11th-hour defense of the Affordable Care Act by the administration. Mr. Obama also penned a sharply worded piece published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, criticizing the GOP approach to the health law. Republicans are moving to unwind parts of the law quickly, but with a transition period of two to four years to enact a replacement.

Republicans have said the health law is doing more harm than good and that they’re confident Congress can craft a working replacement during the transition period. They say Democrats should work with them rather than defending a law they say hasn’t worked.

Critics say the law says it has led to excessive taxes and wasted government spending and is a federal intrusion on Americans’ health care. “We all know how harmful this failed, partisan experiment has been for those we represent,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week.

Mr. Obama said Friday that the ACA was built on Republican ideas and that it suffered because Republicans wouldn’t work with Democrats after its passage. He reiterated his support for a single-payer national health plan and said Republicans are now discovering how complicated it is to repeal the law.

“The Republicans need to put forward very specific ideas of how they are going to do it,” he told Vox, later asking, “Why is it they are trying to rush the repeal so quickly? What is it they are afraid of?

The 2010 law expanded Medicaid eligibility and provided financial assistance through insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, enabling an estimated 20 million previously uninsured people to obtain coverage.

In Mr. Obama’s piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, he said the Republican plan to repeal and later replace the health law was a reckless strategy that would jeopardize access to health care for tens of millions of Americans.

He warned that such an approach would broadly undermine the American health care system. “This approach of ‘repeal first and replace later’ is, simply put, irresponsible—and could slowly bleed the health care system that all of us depend upon,” Mr. Obama wrote.