Trump rejects bipartisan bill to keep ACA subsidies after backing it

By Allen Cone  |  Oct. 18, 2017 at 1:32 PM
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Oct. 18 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said Wednesday he's opposed to a new bipartisan congressional plan to maintain subsidies for Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges, one day after expressing support for the legislation.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., tentatively agreed on a plan to offer "two years of temporary cost-sharing payment" and amendments for "meaningful flexibility."

"I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care," Trump posted to Twitter Wednesday morning.

At an appearance with reporters later Wednesday, Trump said, "We'll see ... But I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are being enriched. They've been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anybody has ever seen before."

A day earlier, the president called the bipartisan legislation "a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants are going to be the answer," referring to state grants proposed by another bill that failed to get enough support.

"I'm pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans," he said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. "While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray ... I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised the bipartisan effort and said the proposal was "a step in the right direction." Still, she said it doesn't address Trump's concerns about providing "relief for all Americans."

"We need something to go a little further to get on board," she said, adding that the president does not support the plan in its current form.

Last week, Trump announced his administration will end subsidies offered through the ACA to help people afford coverage.

Alexander said those subsidies benefit Americans, not insurers.

"The Alexander-Murray agreement has strong language to do that, and I will work with the president to see if we can make it even stronger," Alexander tweeted Wednesday.

Alexander told Axios Wednesday that Trump called him earlier in the day to encourage him about the bill.

"Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday," Alexander said. "He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term."

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday criticized Trump for "zig zagging" on policy and pandering to the extreme right out of "blatant fear."

"We should have a president who actually knows the facts of bills he talks about," he said.

"It doesn't bail out the insurance companies. It helps people who are sick and who need healthcare."

Although Senate Democratic leaders said they support the compromise, Republican leaders haven't signed on to the plan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokesman, Doug Andres, said Wednesday that Ryan "does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday, "We haven't had a chance to think about the way forward yet."

Congressional Republicans have tried for months to repeal and replace the ACA, but their legislation has so far failed to find enough support.

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