Sweeping White House promises that insurance premiums will fall and more people will have coverage under the Obamacare replacement plan may be hard to keep as conservatives demand limits to government involvement in health care before they support the measure.
Top officials from Donald Trump’s administration fanned out across political talk shows on Sunday to sell the merits of the American Health Care Act, the House bill intended to replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health law.
Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a pre-recorded interview aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that under the administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more people will have health insurance coverage, and costs will fall. People on Medicaid wouldn’t be forced off, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn added on “Fox News Sunday.”
“If you create a system that’s accessible for everybody and you provide the financial feasibility for everybody to get coverage, then we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now,” Price said. “Nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through, understanding that they’ll have choices.”
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to provide its evaluation of the bill as soon as Monday. On Thursday, the Brookings Institution estimated that about 15 million people will lose coverage under the replacement plan.
In addition to helping people in the individual health insurance market gain coverage, Obamacare expanded Medicaid, a move that the plan from Republicans would wind down in 2020. Yet Cohn said the program won’t change.
“If you’re on Medicaid you’re going to stay and the expansion is not going to change,” Cohn said. “There’s a period of transition and we’re very confident the expansion is going to work.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said of the proposed Medicaid changes, “Just because you spend less money on something doesn’t mean it can’t get better.”
While the administration is touting sweeping effects of Republicans’ plan, key conservative Republicans remain opposed, in part because they want to eliminate the Medicaid expansion more quickly. Representative Joe Barton of Texas and Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee are working on amendments that would wind down the expansion next year.
The choice isn’t “take it or leave it,” Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Work with all the folks in the conservative movement, all the Republicans around the country,” Jordan said. “Work with us or they don’t get the votes.”
Jordan said he’s working on a wish-list of changes to the bill and will be at the White House on Tuesday to discuss amendments. Without changes, he said he won’t vote for the proposal.
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said approving the bill as written would hurt Republicans politically because it would have “adverse consequences for millions of Americans” and wouldn’t deliver on promises to reduce health-care costs.
“If they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year,” Cotton said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And I don’t want to see the House majority put at risk on a bill that is not going to pass the Senate.”
Speaker Paul Ryan, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” meanwhile, agreed with Trump’s contention — made at a private meeting with lawmakers this week — that there’ll be a “bloodbath” for House Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections if they can’t tell voters they kept their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Conservatives said they’re confident they can work with Trump to change the bill.
“The president told me personally, ‘We want to make this better for the American people” and he’s willing to negotiate,” Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The art of the deal is not dead.”
Mulvaney, in a separate interview on ABC, reiterated Trump’s desire to negotiate to bring conservatives on board.
Suggestions such as changing the expansion date or adding work requirements for Medicaid recipients “are great ideas that would improve the bill,” Mulvaney said. “If the House sees fit to make the bill better, they’d certainly have the support of the White House.”