Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017 – 11:56 AM
President Donald Trump, facing mounting concern that millions of Americans could lose their health insurance, met Monday with “victims of Obamacare” to highlight the Republican replacement for his Democratic predecessor’s plan.
The White House has spent the past week grappling with maintaining party unity as conservatives and moderates alike bashed the new initiative, for likely costing too much and kicking people off of their plans.
Trump insisted it would be a vast improvement over Barack Obama’s signature health care reform.
“The House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare will provide you and your fellow citizens with more choices, far more choices, at lower cost,” Trump told the men and women who sat down with him in the White House.
Americans will soon “be able to pick the plan they want, they’ll be able to pick the doctor they want, they’ll be able to do a lot of things that the other plan was supposed to give and it never gave.”
All of Washington was awaiting a government report expected as soon as Monday that will project the cost of the new legislation, as Trump remains keen to fulfill his campaign promise to kill off the Affordable Care Act.
Several of Trump’s lieutenants and chief supporters in Congress took to the Sunday talk shows to downplay the upcoming CBO “score,” which will also project how many people would gain — or lose — health insurance under the Republican plan.
If CBO’s assessment is negative, as even some conservatives anticipate it will be, it could fuel the already substantial opposition to the measure that is making its way through the House of Representatives.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was among several to pummel CBO ahead of its report, insisting it would be hard for a market-driven plan to compete with a government requirement to purchase health insurance.
“The one thing I’m certain will happen is CBO will say, ‘Well, gosh, not as many people will get coverage.’ You know why? Because this isn’t a government mandate,'” Ryan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“What we are trying to achieve here is bringing down the cost of care, bringing down the cost of insurance, not through government mandates and monopolies, but by having more choice and competition.”
Asked directly how many people will lose their insurance, Ryan said he could not answer the question.
“We’re not going to make an American do what they don’t want to do,” he said. “You get it if you want it.”
Meanwhile at Trump’s listening session, he painted an optimistic picture, stressing Americans would move beyond the “one size fits all” plan as insurers embrace the power of the “private marketplace” to lower costs and expand choice.
- Don’t ‘walk the plank’ -
The GOP plan rolls back the expansion of the Medicaid health care program for the poor by 2020, slashes Obamacare taxes, and eliminates some minimum coverage requirements which critics have argued drive up the cost of premiums.
It preserves two popular Obamacare provisions: the rules that insurance companies cannot refuse coverage to anyone due to a pre-existing condition, and that dependents can remain on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s last week predicted between six and 10 million people would lose coverage under the bill. The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, estimated the figure at 15 million.
Such predictions have worried some Republicans, especially after Trump campaigned on the pledge to “take care of everybody.”
Senator Tom Cotton warned that the bill in its current form could not pass the Senate, and called on the party to avoid a political meltdown on health care that could cost Republicans in the 2018 mid-term elections, much as the 2010 Obamacare law devastated Democrats in the mid-terms that year.
“I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives, with whom I served: Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” Cotton said on ABC “This Week.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price sought to allay fears that Americans would suffer more under the GOP plan.
“Nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
© Agence France-Presse