U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted Monday that the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama is likely to undergo changes next year, regardless of who wins the White House and which party has the upper hand in Congress.
The Kentucky Republican, who has long advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act, told a business audience in his hometown that the law "can't possibly go on like it is." He predicted the overhaul "will be revisited by the next president, whoever that is."
McConnell said the 2010 health care law, which passed without a single Republican vote when Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress, "is crashing" under the weight of rising premiums and the exit of big-name insurers that will limit consumer choice in many markets.
"All of this was entirely predictable," McConnell said.
Those problems will make the law ripe for changes when the next Congress convenes next year, he said.
"My prediction is that 'Obamacare' will be revisited next year, no matter who wins the election, no matter who's in control of Congress," McConnell said. "Because things that can't work, won't work, and will need to be revisited by popular demand from people all across the country."
During a question-and-answer session with the audience, McConnell declined to offer specifics when asked what would be included in any legislation. The senator said the extent of changes will hinge on the November election.
"It will be revisited, in my view, in a major way," he said. "And exactly how it's changed will depend on the election."
Republican Donald Trump has promised to repeal and replace the health care law if he wins the presidency.
If Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House, she's expected to mount a rescue effort. She has outlined a long list of proposed fixes, from rearranging benefits to introducing a government-sponsored "public option" as an alternative to private insurers.
Another question is which party will control the health care debate in the Senate.
The GOP is struggling to maintain control of the Senate in a year when the map is tilted in Democrats' favor. Twenty-four Republican-held seats are on the ballot this year, compared with 10 for Democrats, McConnell noted. Republicans are embroiled in tough fights to keep GOP-held seats in places such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and Indiana. Democrats need to pick up five seats to take back control of the Senate, or four if they also keep control of the White House, since the vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.
"It's a close situation," McConnell said. "It has been all year."
Next year's health insurance signup season starts a week before the Nov. 8 election. Premiums are expected to rise sharply in many insurance marketplaces, which offer subsidized private coverage to people lacking access to job-based plans. The health care law's mandates and tax increases have stoked endless controversy and opposition from the GOP, yet the number of uninsured people has dropped by millions of people.