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Trump expects Senate to change House-passed health bill

Demonstrators hold signs to protest Rep. Jackie Walorski's,

Demonstrators hold signs to protest Rep. Jackie Walorski's, R-Ind., vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act outside her office in Mishawaka, Ind., on Friday, May 5, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump expects the Senate to change the bill the House passed Thursday to replace the Affordable Care Act, but said senators should retain the principles of lower costs and flexibility for states, his press aide said Friday.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump expects the Senate to take up the bill “in short order” but has not set any timelines or deadlines for what could be a lengthy process, given the high hurdles erected by dissatisfied Republicans and Democrats.

But Sanders also warned that Trump again will play a “hands-on” role in Senate deliberations as he seeks to enact a law that would seal his legacy as the person who “got rid of Obamacare” and give the American people the “health care system they deserve.”

“The one thing you can be sure of is to never underestimate this president,” Sanders said a day after House Republicans resurrected their Obamacare replacement bill that had been written off as dead in March and narrowly passed it, 217-213, on Thursday.

“He’s made no secret he’s committed to reforming the health care system,” she said. “We expect there to be some changes but we expect the principle and the main pillars of the health care bill to be the same.”

Sanders said the White House is focused on “lowering costs, creating a competitive environment [and] flexibility giving states the ability to make decisions within the health care system.”

Lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ind.), as well as most Democrats, have raised concerns that people with pre-existing conditions will be priced out of health care.

Key Senate lawmakers have made it clear they will craft their own bill.

“We will write it, find out what it costs, vote on it, and then we’ll compare our bill to the House. And then they’ll pass our bill or we’re going to go to a conference committee,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of one of the three Senate committees handling the bill.

Meanwhile, Sanders sought to downplay Trump’s praise Thursday evening for Australia’s single-payer system that is the polar opposite of the free-market framework that he and House Republicans built into the American Health Care Act.

“We have a failing health care — I shouldn’t say this to our great gentlemen and my friend from Australia because you have better health care then we do,” said Trump in a press availability with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

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