Price: Trump administration talking to GOP senators opposed to healthcare bill

By Allen Cone  |  June 25, 2017 at 2:25 PM
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June 25 (UPI) -- The Trump administration is attempting to win over Republican senators opposed to legislation to overhaul health insurance, Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Sunday.

Price said in an interview on Fox News Sunday that President Donald Trump and other members of his administration are attempting to sway the five Republicans -- Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada -- who publicly say they don't support the Senate version of an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The health secretary insisted those five senators have said, "We want to be able to support this bill."

Some moderate senators have not yet disclosed if they back the bill, which was released Thursday.

Price said he knows it is a tough task to get the necessary votes. With every Democrat opposing the legislation, the Republicans need at least all but two of them to approve the measure for it to pass.

"We're talking with every one of them," Price said Sunday. "Conversations are ongoing. That's what we're working on this week. That's the legislative process.

"What we're trying to do here, admittedly, is to thread a needle to make it so that, as the president says, every single American needs to be able to have access to the kind of coverage that they want."

Price said the bill would end mandates on coverage, provide insurance reform for market stability and give flexibility to states on implementing the law, instead of a "top-down, Washington-knows-best" strategy.

"The important thing to appreciate is that where we're headed right now is in the wrong direction," Price told Fox. "This is a move in a much better direction ... where patients and doctors will be making the decisions, not Washington."

The Senators have divergent reasons for opposing the bill.

Regarding Heller's opposition over concerns about Medicaid, Price said, "Medicaid isn't the only vehicle to be able to purchase coverage or to be able to have coverage."

He added: "Nobody will fall through the cracks, nobody will have the rug pulled from under them. We believe we'll get more individuals covered than are covered right now."

Paul is concerned the government is still involved in healthcare insurance, including subsidies. Price said that Obamacare's "penalties go away" in the Senate legislation, adding, "There are 6.5 million folks who are paying $3 billion for the privilege of not purchasing that coverage."

Rand said Sunday he would consider voting for a partial repeal of Obamacare.

"I've been telling leadership for months now that I will vote for a repeal, and it doesn't have to be a 100 percent repeal," Paul said on ABC's This Week. "For example, I'm for 100 percent repeal, that's what I want, but if you offer me a 90 percent repeal, I'd probably vote for it. I might vote for 80 percent repeal."

However, he added that the current bill as proposed "is not anywhere close to repeal."

Also appearing on ABC, Susan Collins of Maine, said, "It's hard for me to see the bill passing this week."

She further noted, "I have very serious concerns about the bill," and she said she wants to wait to see the Congressional Budget Office score. The CBO report of the House-passed bill projected that 23 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 than today and would cut the deficit by $119 billion over the same period.

Her concerns are similar to Heller's.

"For my part, I'm very concerned about the cost of insurance for older people with serious chronic illnesses, and the impact of the Medicaid cuts on our state governments, the most vulnerable people in our society, and healthcare providers such as our rural hospitals and nursing homes, most of whom are very dependent on the Medicaid program," Collins said.

Trump, during a taped interview airing Sunday on Fox & Friends, said he hopes for a bill that everyone can "like" compared with previously saying "love."

"Honestly, nobody can be totally happy, even without the votes," Trump said. "Forget about votes, this has nothing to do with votes. This has to do with picking a plan that everybody's going to like. I'd like to say love, but like."

He reaffirmed that he wants a plan with "heart."

"We have a very good plan," he said. "We have a few people that are -- I think you could say modestly -- they're not standing on the rooftops and screaming, they want to get some points, I think they'll get some points."

The President also confirmed earlier reports saying he called the House version of the plan "mean."

"That was my term because I want to see -- and I speak from the heart, that's what I want to see. I want to see a bill with heart," Trump told Pete Hegseth during the interview on Fox & Friends.

Last week, former President Barack Obama criticized "the fundamental meanness at the core" of the Senate Republicans' healthcare plan.

"Well, he used my term, mean," Trump said

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