WASHINGTON — Lawmakers will act this year on bills not simply repealing President Barack Obama's health care law but replacing it as well, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday.
The remarks by Ryan, R-Wis., suggested a faster schedule than some had expected on reshaping the nation's health care system. While Republicans have said they plan to vote this year on dismantling Obama's law, Ryan went a step further, saying they also would write legislation to replace it in 2017.
It won't be easy.
Despite unifying for years behind the notion of dismantling Obama's 2010 law, Republicans have yet to rally behind a plan for replacing it, stymied by divisions over how to do it and pay for the changes.
"Our legislating on Obamacare, our repealing and replacing and transitioning, the legislating will occur this year," Ryan told reporters, using a nickname for the law.
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said by "legislating," Ryan meant lawmakers will write legislation and vote on it.
Obama's signature health care law created marketplaces where consumers can buy coverage and provided subsidies to help people afford premiums, expanded Medicaid for lower-earning people and set requirements for the types of care that insurers must cover. Overall, it's provided coverage for 20 million additional people.
With Donald Trump set to become president on Jan. 20, Republicans running Congress now face the political imperative to deliver on their oft-repeated promises to erase and replace the health law.
Democrats, who helped Obama enact the law without any GOP votes, are planning to defend the overhaul, but they're outnumbered in the House and Senate.
No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said writing a new health care law would be a top priority in his chamber but stopped short of saying senators would complete that this year.
"The Senate operating at warp speed is still nothing compared to what the House can do," he said in a brief interview.
Republicans want to abolish the law's penalties for individuals who don't buy policies and for some larger businesses that don't cover employees. They want to ease federal coverage requirements and have proposed providing tax credits to help people afford coverage.