SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The urgency among House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act may be fading. Before he was inaugurated, President Trump said a repeal vote would probably happen within a week. It did not. He gave a different timeline in an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News last Sunday.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would like to say by the end of the year - at least the rudiments - but we should have something within the year and the following year.
SIMON: We're joined now by Richard Hanna, retired congressman, a Republican from New York's 22nd district in Central New York. Mr. Hanna, thanks so much for being with us.
RICHARD HANNA: Good morning. My pleasure.
SIMON: You said that when faced with the tasks - with the task, Republicans may choose not to repeal at least a lot of the Affordable Care Act. Why?
HANNA: Well, as a practical matter, there are over 130 million people on it - or not on it, but who have pre-existing conditions. There are tens of millions or about 20 million, I think, people who are under that system. And also, it's important to remember that we've never had a lower rate of people who are uninsured in this country in our history. So while we argue about the cost and how it's redistributed the cost and who it's affected, at the same time the law has done what it originally intended to do. And even though the Republican Party has turned it into a talking point and I, along with others, have voted many times to do something to it to be able to replace it.
SIMON: Well, I was going to point that out. Several...
HANNA: Right. What else was there to do (laughter)?
SIMON: Several times you voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
HANNA: Yes, and several times I did not when it was associated with women's health care and things like that that I've supported. I've always been a supporter of the LGBT community and Planned Parenthood, one of the few, if not the only. So there are parts of this...
SIMON: You mean one of the few, if not the only Republican in the House.
HANNA: Exactly. Thank you.
SIMON: Not people. Yeah.
HANNA: The - so I think, you know, they look a lot like the dog that caught the bus. And the fact that they want to have what they call patient-centered health care, it's a nice talking point. It sounds good. The question is what does it mean? And I think that the millions of people that are on the Affordable Health Care Act and the millions of people who object to it and the Republican Party should have it - have in their minds that they owe the public what it is they're going to do when they replace this.
And I think Mr. Price, Tom Price, the secretary of health, is the most knowledgeable man to replace this. But also, it's deeply complicated, multifaceted and lots of it crosses back and forth in many different ways. It's not going to be easy. And, you know, when you're in the minority and you vote against something over and over knowing full well that the president is never going to sign a bill that undoes his signature legislation, it's pretty easy. The complicated part is - and I think is why people should look to divided government - is what do you do when you actually own all three branches of government and you can affect the things that you've talked about?
SIMON: Well, let - but - got to ask you - didn't millions - don't millions of Americans feel that they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act because that's what Donald Trump said he wanted to do, that's what most Republicans running for election to the House and Senate said they wanted to do and they have majorities?
HANNA: Well, I think it's typical of our politics on the right and the left today. People are pandering to their base. The gerrymandering in this country has really become a train wreck for democracy, that if you want to get through a primary you talk to your base. And we increasingly elect those people who move further and further to the extreme on both sides. So they know that they can pick up a talking point - hating Obamacare or whatever it may be - and they can win a primary. And the choices we're left at - with at a general election are very limited.
SIMON: Richard Hanna, retired congressman from New York. Thanks very much for being with us.
HANNA: And thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.