White House on ACA repeal and replace: 'It's not over'

Trump and Rutledge presser
The Trump White House isn't giving up on dismantling the Affordable Care Act yet.

Although the American Health Care Act failed to make it to the House floor for a vote, that doesn’t mean repeal and replace efforts are over. It’s just the beginning of the process of fixing the Affordable Care Act—and there are still “a lot of options on the table,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a briefing today.

"It's not over"

Among those options: Trying to rework and revive the AHCA with bipartisan support; repealing some of the taxes that support the Affordable Care Act in Donald Trump’s planned tax reform efforts; and letting HHS Secretary Tom Price wield his considerable powers to dismantle parts of Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law.

“It’s not over,” Spicer said at today's briefing. “We’ve got an agenda to continue to pursue.”

Julius Hobson, a senior policy adviser with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Polsinelli, told FierceHealthcare in a recent interview that the Trump administration could “try to strangle [ACA] to death administratively.”

The IRS, he pointed out, is already failing to enforce rules requiring those who don’t comply with the individual and employer mandates to pay a penalty. 

In a press conference last Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan also said pulling the bill is "not the end of the story." Price, he noted, can take some actions to "stabilize things."

Ryan reiterated that point on a phone call with donors on Monday, saying he intends to continue pushing for an overhaul of the healthcare system by working “on two tracks,” according to the Washington Post, which obtained a recording of the call.

“We are going to keep getting at this thing,” he said. “We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon healthcare and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the healthcare problem ... It’s just that valuable, that important.”

RELATED: What now? Health insurers still face uncertainty after AHCA's demise

"Willing to listen"

The president is “absolutely” serious about working with Democrats to bring a healthcare reform bill to a floor vote. But the administration doesn’t need all Democrats—just the “responsible” ones who aren’t as far left as leadership including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Spicer told reporters.

“Obviously, we’re willing to listen and move forward,” Spicer said.

RELATED: Provider groups praise demise of AHCA

"Will look at other opportunities"

Trump has tweeted that by failing to pass AHCA, conservative Republicans missed an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood. But Spicer said the administration “will look at other opportunities” to do so.

He didn’t rule out taking such action in a rider to next month’s federal funding bill. 

"Learned a lot"

The Trump administration “learned a lot” in the process and agreed that “to some degree” a course correction is in order, Spicer said. Those lessons included how the legislation was rolled out, people and organizations who were (or were not) involved in the negotiations, timing and communications, he said.

Trump knows that part of making deals is knowing when to walk away, Spicer said, adding that the AHCA was “not in keeping with the vision that [Trump] has” for healthcare reform.