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Trump Assails Obamacare, but Offers No Strategy for Its Repeal


Under a painting of President Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a National Governors Association meeting at the White House in Washington, Feb. 27, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday there is "nothing to love" about the national health care reforms championed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, but offered no strategy for their repeal or replacement.

In separate meetings with the country's state governors and insurance company executives, Trump described the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act, popularly known in the United States as Obamacare, as "a failed disaster."

He told the two groups that with sharply increasing costs for Americans buying health care insurance under the law, "it's going to absolutely implode." The new Republican president said that as a political strategy, Republicans could let that happen and that, "I think it would be great" to leave Democrats to take the blame if the law fails.

Trump, however, said that would "not be fair" to millions of Americans who have benefited from the law.

While not offering any proposed changes, Trump said that eventually "not only will the [insurance] markets be good, but the people are going to be taken care of, quite easily actually."

During his long run to the White House, Trump often said he would somehow overturn the law on his first day in office, but the complexities of doing so have left him to acknowledge that any changes might not occur until next year, although Republican lawmakers say they want to move much more quickly.

The law, long reviled by Republicans like Trump because of its mandate for all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty for failing to do so, has given 20 million previously uninsured Americans coverage. The high cost of the policies, however, has turned some against the measure and left millions of other people still without insurance to help pay their medical bills.

Trump has said he does not want anyone currently covered by the law to lose insurance, but has offered few clues about how he plans to implement the changes.

Proposals offered by some conservative Republican lawmakers to change the law could sharply curb government health care spending, leaving millions of poorer Americans without insurance coverage. Trump's new government health chief, Tom Price, and some Republicans in Congress, want to guarantee Americans access to buy insurance, not necessarily make sure everyone actually has coverage.

In the first major social event of his presidency, Trump saluted 46 of the country's 50 state governors and their spouses, who were in Washington for an annual conference and a black tie ball Sunday at the White House.

Trump drank a toast to those he called the "great, great governors of the United States," even if many of the Democratic governors disagree with some of his policies.

Immigration differences

The president's recent orders to get tougher on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants include threats to cut off billions of dollars in federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Trump's plans include deputizing local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents.

In interviews with VOA, some of the governors said they want to see immigrants and refugees newly arrived in America succeed in making new lives for themselves. They also stressed that everyone should be treated with compassion and in a reasonable manner as laws are enforced.

National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks with reporters after leaving a health care reform meeting during the NGA's Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.
National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks with reporters after leaving a health care reform meeting during the NGA's Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

The National Governors Association chairman, Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, has said he considers Trump's new measures "immoral and illegal."

Speaking to VOA's Persian News Network, he said immigrants and refugees are "safe in Virginia...we want people to come, we want you to start a business and raise your family and have a great quality of life. In Virginia, we're going to protect all the basic and fundamental civil liberties and civil rights."

At the dinner, however, McAuliffe led the governors in a toast to Trump, telling him, "We want to work with you to build" on their shared common goals of boosting employment, improving health care and education and fixing the country's deteriorating infrastructure.