Vice President-elect Pence: Trump’s first order of business is to repeal, replace Obamacare

Vice President-elect Mike Pence reaffirmed Wednesday the Trump administration’s intention to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Pence said that the administration must “remind the American people what they already know about Obamacare, that the promises that were made were broken.” He said that the Trump administration’s efforts will “literally begin on day one.”

The vice president-elect said he expects Donald Trump to repeal existing executive orders and set forth new policies using executive action as soon as possible.

While they can hardly prevent the GOP repeal effort from proceeding, the president and House and Senate Democrats also met to discuss how to best defend a law that’s extended health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans and which Obama considers one of the proudest pillars of his legacy.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the answer here is not to ignore the problem to keep some failed legacy.” Both Ryan and Pence emphasized that when Republicans come up with an alternative to Obamacare, they will strive for an “orderly transition to a new system.”

“We’ve been saying all along, we don’t want to pull the rug out from under people while we’re replacing this law. The point is, in 2017, we don’t want people to be caught with nothing,” Ryan said.

When asked whether there may be danger in repealing Obamacare before finding a suitable alternative, Ryan pushed back.

“We have a plan to replace it. We have plenty of ideas to replace it and you’ll see as the weeks and months unfold what we’re talking about replacing it with — how do we get better choices with lower prices by not having a costly government take over our health care, which is causing all of these problems in the first place,” Ryan said.

But Republicans haven’t committed yet to a concrete plan for a replacement, and it is not clear how such a plan could avoid big drops in the number of Americans with coverage without keeping several key parts of Obamacare — parts that many Republicans object to. Many health insurance experts warn that gutting the ACA while delaying crafting a replacement could lead to sharp coverage drops, even if the repeal is suspended for several years.

When asked Tuesday if the Trump team had a replacement plan in place, advisor Kellyanne Conway said, “We have pieces of it.” She said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the “ideal situation” would be if a replacement was passed at the same time that Obamacare was repealed.

“Let’s see what happens practically,” she added.

The Associated Press, and CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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