LEWISTON, Maine — Maine’s senior senator joined four Republican colleagues to call on Congress to hit the brakes on a bid to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In her amendment to the budget reconciliation measure that includes a provision to repeal Obamacare, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins seeks to extend the bill’s timeline to allow GOP leaders to develop an alternative that would soften the blow for tens of millions of Americans who rely on the health insurance they get through the program.
“In an ideal situation, we would repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously, but we need to make sure that we have at least a detailed framework that tells the American people what direction we’re headed,” Collins said in a statement.
“Repeal and replacement is a complicated task, and my No. 1 concern is that we not create a gap in coverage for individuals who are currently insured and who rely on that coverage,” she said.
As is, the fast-track budget plan aims to have repeal wording in place by Jan. 27, a week after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
On Tuesday, Trump put renewed pressure on congressional Republicans working to repeal Obamacare, insisting that lawmakers pass a replacement for the health care law at the same time or soon after they vote to dismantle it.
But getting congressional Republicans to agree on how to replace Obamacare has so far proven tricky. If Congress does not put in place a substitute, millions of Americans who receive health care under Obamacare may be at risk of losing coverage.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that some elements of an insurance substitute likely would be ready when lawmakers vote to repeal Obamacare, but others would take longer. Some Republicans have said it could take up to two years to craft a replacement.
Trump said in a New York Times interview that a delay of that length was unacceptable.
“It won’t be repeal and then two years later go in with another plan,” he said, according to the Times.
The amendment sought by Collins would push the deadline back to March 3 to provide officials with more time, and give the incoming administration a chance to review its options.
“By providing more time to come up with legislative solutions, we have a better opportunity to produce a thoughtful, workable replacement that ensures Americans have access to affordable, diverse insurance plans that meet their needs,” Collins said.
Joining Collins in calling for delay were U.S. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, said he opposes repeal of Obamacare, preferring instead to make it better.
“I would be the first to agree that the law isn’t perfect, but we should prioritize fixing its problems and do so in a responsible way – not move to strip tens of thousands of Mainers of health insurance that could one day save their lives,” King said.
“Putting a campaign promise ahead of people’s well-being is not only reckless, it’s partisan politics at its worst,” he said in a statement blasting the GOP’s rush to repeal the law.
He also offered five amendments to legislation under consideration by the Senate that would preserve critical facets of the Affordable Care Act and protect health insurance and vital programs to serve people across Maine.
The Senate is expected to vote on a series of amendments to the budget resolution Thursday, King said..
The Center for Budget Policy and Priorities estimates 95,000 people in Maine could lose their insurance if Obamacare is repealed.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate so the opposition to fast-tracking repeal can hold sway on the issue. Party leaders have been talking about repealing Obamacare, but delaying its demise for as long as a few years to provide time to come up with something else.
Collins has argued that an alternative should be available before the demise of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
Reuters contributed to this report.