Isakson weighs options as Obamacare replacement effort collapses

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U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

WASHINGTON — As the Senate was laying the groundwork for its repeal of Obamacare back in January, Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson insisted that tearing down the seven-year-old law without a replacement was “unsustainable and impractical.”

“It’s wrong for us to say we’re going to repeal Obamacare without replacing it with a plan that we know works and has the opportunity [to work],” Isakson said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The third-term Republican was less certain about a similar proposal on Tuesday as the GOP’s years-long quest to replace the Affordable Care Act veered off the tracks in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scrambled to come up with a Plan B, vowing to tee up a vote on a repeal-only measure in the days ahead despite the fact that the legislation appeared to be on track to fail.

Isakson on Tuesday was non-committal when asked about his plans for the repeal-only vote.

“I’m not going to answer a specific question when there’s not a plan,” Isakson said. “I’ll specifically address that when the leader comes up with a plan one way or another.”

More: Georgia stakeholders anxious and confused over health care fight

The Marietta Republican, who sits on the Senate’s two main health care committees, has kept his policy wish list broad for the duration of the Obamacare replacement debate in order to keep his options open. (He did manage to slip more money for charity hospitals such as Grady Memorial Hospital into the GOP’s second health care draft.) In general, Isakson has been viewed as a loyal ally of party leaders such as McConnell.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he planned to vote for a repeal-only bill.

“What we did in ‘15 I voted for and I’d vote for it again,” the Georgia Republican said, referring to a 2015 bill that also repealed large swaths of Obamacare. The legislation was ultimately vetoed by President Barack Obama.

“What we’re sitting here with is a collapsing system,” Perdue said. “People are going to begin to lose access and we’ve gotta fix that.”

Read more local reaction to the Senate health care bill on myAJC


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