By Maggie Astor
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said Sunday that, if elected president, he would pursue legislation that would “supersede” the Affordable Care Act, echoing former President Donald Trump’s comments, which Democrats seized upon last week.
“What I think they’re going to need to do is have a plan that will supersede Obamacare, that will lower prices for people so that they can afford health care, while also making sure that people with preexisting conditions are protected,” DeSantis said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He went on to say that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was a broken promise from Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“We’re going to look at the big institutions that are causing prices to be high — big pharma, big insurance and big government — but it’s going to need to be where you have a reform package that’s going to be put in place,” he said. “Obamacare promised lower premiums. It didn’t deliver that,” he added. “We know we need to go in a different direction, but it’s going to be done by having a plan that’s going to be able to supersede it.”
Trump called for the same thing last week, writing on his social media platform that he was “seriously looking at alternatives” to the Affordable Care Act. After President Joe Biden’s campaign denounced the statement, Trump wrote: “I don’t want to terminate Obamacare, I want to REPLACE IT with MUCH BETTER HEALTHCARE. Obamacare Sucks!!!”
DeSantis named two specific policies he would address: making health care costs publicly available so that consumers can compare prices, and lowering insurance premiums for people who choose lower-cost providers. He called coverage for preexisting conditions, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, “an easy thing that we’ll agree on.”
Beyond that and a list of principles — “more transparency, more consumer choice, more affordable options, less red tape” — he did not go deep on his plan. Of the more than 40 million Americans covered by ACA plans, he said, “We’ll have a plan that will offer them coverage, so the coverage will be different and better, but they’re still going to be able to be covered.”
He said he would release a full proposal “probably in the spring,” which would be after a majority of states have held their primaries or caucuses.
While opposition to the Affordable Care Act was initially a vote driver for Republicans, the law has become much more popular over the years, and Republicans’ failed effort to repeal the law in 2017 helped Democrats in the 2018 elections.
A KFF poll in May found that 59% of Americans supported the ACA. DeSantis’ and Trump’s calls to replace it could play well in the Republican primary — only 26% of Republicans support the health law, according to the poll — but could become a liability in the general election because 89% of Democrats and 62% of independents support it.
The Democratic National Committee condemned DeSantis’ comments.
“DeSantis is hellbent on taking his failed ‘Florida Blueprint’ nationwide, even though it has contributed to some of the highest health care costs in America and left hundreds of thousands of hardworking Floridians without insurance,” Sarafina Chitika, a DNC spokesperson, said. “If Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans have their way, they’d send premiums skyrocketing to line the pockets of greedy health care executives and their wealthy buddies.”
Florida, one of 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, had one of the nation’s highest percentages of uninsured people last year, according to the Census Bureau.