House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday vowed to push ahead with plans to quickly repeal Obamacare and replace it with new provisions, saying Americans are at immediate risk from the current health-care law.
Ryan said that Obamacare heath insurance plans are in a "death spiral" — a claim that has been strongly disputed by Obama administration officials — and argued that fast action is justified and necessary. A death spiral occurs with health plans are overloaded with sick customers, leading to ever-rising premium prices.
"We do feel the need to act quickly, because, again, this thing is collapsing," said Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, hours after the Senate voted in the dead of night 51-48 to approve a budget resolution that is being used to gut the Affordable Care Act. The House is scheduled to take up that resolution Friday.
"We're working on an aggressive timetable," said the speaker.
"This week, Congress is on track to put in place the tools necessary to repeal and replace Obamacare," Ryan said. "This is the first of several steps that we will be taking to deliver relief to millions of Americans who are struggling under this law."
Asked for comment on Ryan's claims about the ACA's strength, or lack thereof, Obama health officials pointed to news earlier this week that sign-ups on health plans sold on Obamacare exchanges had topped 11.5 million nationally so far this open enrollment season. That's nearly 300,000 more people signing up than were seen during the same time period last year.
At the time of that announcement Tuesday, senior federal health official Aviva Aron-Dine said, "We can officially pronounce these death spiral claims are dead."
Ryan told reporters Thursday that congressional Republicans are "not holding to hard deadlines" in their repeal-and-replace efforts, and that they would coordinate those efforts with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
"We want to make sure that we move these things concurrently, at the same time, repeal and replace," Ryan said.
"We need to show that there's a better way forward. We need to show that even though this law is collapsing, we can bridge ourselves to a much, much better system. The pillars that we stand upon with replacing Obamacare — more choices, more options, lower prices and more control over your own health care. Those are the things that we all believe in," Ryan said.
"We're completely in sync, planning on a daily basis with the administration for how to roll all this out. And that's what we're doing."
"We're going to do this the way Congress is supposed to work," said Ryan, arguing that Democrats had rammed through passage of the ACA six years ago.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he planned to introduce a single plan to repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, is approved by the Senate.
Trump said he wants repeal and replacement to be enacted at the same time — and with little delay after a replacement is submitted to Congress.
But that is seen as difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans. To repeal Obamacare takes just 50 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats.
But to replace it will effectively require 60 votes, which means that the GOP would have to get support from Democratic senators, who are showing little or no willingness to help kill Obamacare and adopt new provisions that could reduce insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
The Obama administration has warned that repealing Obamacare with no meaningful replacement could lead to 30 million Americans losing insurance coverage.
Republicans have not said how many people would be covered by a replacement plan.