President Barack Obama on Wednesday called it "aggravating" to see the repeated Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Obama's comment came as the Graham-Cassidy plan, the latest in a string of GOP efforts to roll back his signature achievement, gained traction in the Senate. Republican Senate leadership aims to consider the bill on the floor next week, before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office can assess the sprawling plan's effects on health-care coverage and premiums.
The 44th U.S. president said "it is aggravating" to see lawmakers push bills that he said would reduce coverage, raise costs or create uncertainty for people with pre-existing conditions.
"And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain common sense rationale — it frustrates," Obama said at an event in New York for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "And it's certainly frustrating to have to mobilize every couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents. But, typically that's how progress is won and how progress is maintained."
The Senate has failed to pass several plans to repeal Obamacare this year, backed by Obama's successor, President Donald Trump. GOP leaders argue that the current system is untenable and has left consumers with rising costs.
Obama acknowledged that U.S. health care has flaws which need to be addressed. But he criticized the alternatives offered by Republican lawmakers this year.
The Graham-Cassidy plan is a last-ditch effort to follow through on the key Republican campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. Lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to use budget rules which allow them to pass a plan with only Republican votes.
The health-care bill sets up a block grant system to allot money to the states. Many of them are expected to see less federal funding under the plan than they currently get.
The senators backing it say it will give states more control over their health care rather than the federal government. It faces a tough fight and potentially razor-thin margin in the Senate.
Critics have expressed concerns that it will drastically increase the number of uninsured Americans and lead to fewer financial protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Ten bipartisan governors have urged the Senate not to pass the plan, while numerous major health-care groups have criticized the bill.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., have argued it will not lead to more people uninsured or fewer protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The CBO will not be able to assess those effects before the Senate would aim to vote on the plan.
All of the previous health-care plans backed by the Senate GOP leadership would have led to millions more uninsured, according to the CBO.