House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday called the House-approved blueprint for replacing Obamacare a “rescue mission,” joining with senior Trump administration officials to defend the bill against criticism that it wouldn’t adequately cover the most vulnerable Americans.
Meanwhile, some senators reiterated that the legislation’s fate is uncertain in the upper chamber — with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) saying on ABC News’ “This Week” that they’d be “starting from scratch” on a new measure.
Ryan (R-Wis.), also on the program, said the new health care bill “is a rescue mission to make sure that we can achieve the goals we all want, which is getting the cost of coverage down and making sure that everyone has access to affordable health care, especially and including people with pre-existing conditions.”
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told “Fox News Sunday” that he and President Donald Trump see the health care debate as a “binary choice” between the floundering Obamacare and a fresh start.
The House passed a revised American Health Care Act Thursday by a narrow margin, giving Trump a legislative victory and a first step toward fulfilling his campaign vow to uproot the Affordable Care Act.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected later this week to release its analysis of the reworked bill, estimating how many Americans will be covered and at what cost to the government.
A host of outside groups, including the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and AARP, have voiced concerns about the legislation.
Among the most contested aspects are its effects on those with pre-existing conditions and how cuts to Medicaid would impact those who rely on the program.
Under Obamacare, those with pre-existing conditions could not be charged more. The House GOP bill allows states to seek waivers of some Obamacare mandates, potentially permitting insurers to consider health history and increasing charges for those with a gap in coverage.
Ryan noted that, under the bill, prices cannot be hiked for those with continuous coverage and people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
Priebus said for those who do not have employer-issued insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or continuous coverage, the bill puts $8 billion over five years “into high-risk pools to buy down any premium that they would have to pay for.”
Separately, Health Secretary Tom Price told CNN’s “State of the Union” that despite a CBO scoring of a previous American Health Care Act iteration showing $880 billion would be cut from Medicaid over 10 years, millions would “absolutely not” lose out on Medicaid because the bill goes about caring for them in a more efficient way than Obamacare.
Trump, whose spokeswoman on Friday said the president accepts that there will be Senate changes to the bill, tweeted a note of confidence in the legislative process.
“Republican Senators will not let the American people down!” he posted Sunday. “ObamaCare premiums and deductibles are way up — it was a lie and it is dead!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had tweeted Thursday that the bill “should be viewed with caution” because it had not been scored and had only three hours of final debate.
Collins said Sunday it is “unlikely” that the House plan would cover pre-existing conditions as well or better than Obamacare does, as Ryan and the administration promise.
“So much discretion is given to the states without any guardrails,” she said, adding that her proposal for a health care overhaul would “keep the ACA safeguards, the consumer protections, for people with pre-existing conditions.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) echoed the view of most of his fellow Democrats that Obamacare should be reformed through bipartisanship and not be repealed.
“You’re throwing the baby out with the bath water,” Manchin told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “And then you’re throwing insult to injury by giving a $575 billion tax cut to the wealthiest Americans while you’re cutting $880 billion of service to the poorest Americans.”