Trump says health bill must pass

He’d be ‘very an­gry’ other­wise; McCon­nell ‘has to pull it off’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that he will be “very an­gry” if the Se­nate fails to pass a re­vamped Repub­li­can health care bill, adding that Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell must “pull it off.”

Trump’s re­marks came a day be­fore McCon­nell, R-Ky., is to re­lease his re­vised leg­is­la­tion at a closed meet­ing of GOP sen­a­tors. With Democrats united in their op­po­si­tion to the bill, McCon­nell needs sup­port from 50 of the cham­ber’s 52 Repub­li­cans next week to ap­prove a mo­tion to be­gin de­bate.

Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky said Wed­nes­day that he would op­pose the mo­tion. Sev­eral other GOP sen­a­tors have ex­pressed con­cerns about the leg­is­la­tion, leav­ing McCon­nell and the rest of the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship with days to win them over.

In a White House in­ter­view con­ducted Wed­nes­day for the Chris­tian Broad­cast­ing Net­work’s The 700 Club, Trump said it was time for ac­tion by Repub­li­cans who dur­ing Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency cast scores of votes “that didn’t mean any­thing” in their at­tempts to re­peal the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

“Well, I don’t even want to talk about it be­cause I think it would be very bad,” he said when in­ter­viewer Pat Robert­son asked what would hap­pen if the ef­fort fails. “I will be very an­gry about it, and a lot of peo­ple will be very up­set.”

Asked if McCon­nell would suc­ceed, Trump said, “Mitch has to pull it off.”

“I am sit­ting in the Oval Of­fice with a pen in hand, wait­ing for our sen­a­tors to give it to me,” Trump said. “It has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get to­gether and get it done.”

Trump pre­vi­ously has floated the pos­si­bil­ity that law­mak­ers could re­peal the health care law and re­place it later — a view that ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have stressed is not their pref­er­ence.

Ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view with Robert­son were re­leased Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. The full in­ter­view is set to air to­day.

Trump has played a lim­ited role in ca­jol­ing GOP sen­a­tors to back the leg­is­la­tion. Asked Wed­nes­day about the pres­i­dent’s in­volve­ment, spokesman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said the White House was pro­vid­ing “tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance.”

McCon­nell’s new bill was ex­pected to of­fer only mod­est de­par­tures from the orig­i­nal ver­sion.

Its key el­e­ments re­main in place. The mea­sure would re­lax re­quire­ments that in­sur­ers cover spec­i­fied ser­vices like hos­pi­tal care and would make cuts to Med­i­caid, though the new ver­sion pro­vides money to ease those re­duc­tions.

Penal­ties on peo­ple who don’t buy cov­er­age would be elim­i­nated, fed­eral health care sub­si­dies would be less gen­er­ous, and $ 45 bil­lion would be al­lo­cated to help states com­bat drug abuse.

The new pack­age would elim­i­nate tax in­creases the Af­ford­able Care Act im­posed on the health care in­dus­try. But it would re­tain tax in­creases on up­per- in­come peo­ple, and it would use the rev­enue to help lower-earn­ers af­ford cov­er­age.

Paul told re­porters that the re­vised mea­sure didn’t go far enough.

“I don’t see any­thing in here re­ally re­motely re­sem­bling re­peal,” he said.

An­nie Clarke, the spokesman for Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, said Collins would vote against the bill next week “if the Med­i­caid cuts re­main the same” as those that have been dis­cussed. Collins has said that mil­lions of peo­ple will lose cov­er­age if the Se­nate leg­is­la­tion passes.

A Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice anal­y­sis of the orig­i­nal Se­nate plan pro­jected that it would lead to 22 mil­lion fewer Amer­i­cans hav­ing cov­er­age within a decade.

In ad­di­tion to Paul and Collins, at least two other Repub­li­can sen­a­tors pub­licly said they hadn’t de­cided whether to back McCon­nell on the ini­tial vote: Ted Cruz of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Cruz is the chief au­thor of a pro­posal backed by other con­ser­va­tives that would let in­sur­ers sell low-premium, bare-bones poli­cies as long as the com­pa­nies also sell plans cov­er­ing all the ser­vices — like sub­stance abuse treat­ment — re­quired by the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Cruz’s plan has alien­ated mod­er­ates who worry that health­ier peo­ple would flock to cheaper, skimpier plans, driv­ing up the price of cov­er­age for peo­ple with se­ri­ous med­i­cal con­di­tions. Party lead­ers have not de­ter­mined whether Cruz’s plan will be in their mea­sure, and there have been talks of al­ter­ing it to limit premium in­creases on full-cov­er­age poli­cies.

“If there are not mean­ing­ful pro­tec­tions for con­sumer free­dom that will sig­nif­i­cantly lower pre­mi­ums, then the bill will not have the votes to go for­ward,” Cruz said.

His pro­posal en­dured an­other blow when the in­sur­ance in­dus­try’s largest trade group, Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans, said it would lead to “un­sta­ble health in­sur­ance mar­kets” and that peo­ple with se­ri­ous pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions could “lose ac­cess” to com­pre­hen­sive or rea­son­ably priced cov­er­age.

Scott said he was still try­ing to de­ter­mine whether the re­vised leg­is­la­tion would help fam­i­lies and con­sumers with pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal prob­lems.

McCon­nell with­drew an ini­tial pack­age two weeks ago af­ter encountering op­po­si­tion from Repub­li­cans.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Alan Fram, Erica Werner, Jill Colvin and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press; and by John Wag­ner of The Washington Post.

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