Republicans pitch healthcare plan ahead of key vote

Republicans pitch healthcare plan ahead of key vote
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Republicans on Sunday made a pitch for the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare ahead of a critical vote this week, signaling an openness to some changes.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Opinion | Michael Steele: Gianforte better put his ‘big boy’ pants on Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! MORE (R-Wis.) expressed confidence about the prospects of passing the GOP's healthcare plan, and White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney touted the legislation while blasting ObamaCare. Other Republicans, however, voiced concerns about the plan, with Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSenate gears up for fight on Trump's 0B Saudi Arabia arms sale Paul: 0B Saudi arms deal ‘a travesty’ Senate feels pressure for summer healthcare vote MORE (R-Ky.) predicting it wouldn't pass through Congress.

Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday" that he feels optimistic about the chances of passing the plan, called the American Health Care Act.

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"We feel very good where we are," the Wisconsin Republican said. "We're still having conversations with our members. We're making fine-tuning improvements to the bill to reflect people's concerns, to reflect people's improvements."

He added that he's impressed with how President Trump is helping the GOP to "close the bill."

"We feel like we're on track," Ryan said, "and we're right where we want to be."

He also said he feels "very good" about the prospects the House can pass the bill because "the president has become a great closer."
 
"He's the one who has helped to negotiate changes to this bill with members from all over our caucus," he said.
 
But Ryan admitted there are always improvements to be made to the bill until it is brought to the floor. The GOP is not "doing this behind the scenes and just bringing some bill to the floor and making people vote for it," he added.
 
"We're listening to the people," he said.
 
During the interview, the Speaker also said there should be more assistance provided to older people in the country under the healthcare bill, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted would raise healthcare costs for some older patients.

"We believe that we do need to add some additional assistance to people in those older cohorts," he said.

A person in their 50s or 60s has additional healthcare costs compared to a person in their 20s or 30s, Ryan said.

"We believe we should have even more assistance — and that's one of the things we're looking at — for that person in their 50s and 60s, because they experience higher healthcare costs," he said.

Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, blasted ObamaCare in another interview, saying one of the key points of the Republicans' plan is that it is going to "encourage more competition." That, he said, would lower the costs for everyone.

"The Affordable Care Act wasn't really ObamaCare. It wasn't really the Affordable Care Act. It was the Affordable Coverage Act," Mulvaney said on CBS's "Face The Nation." "And those people that you just described could afford to buy insurance, but they couldn't afford to go to the doctor because the deductibles were so high."

Mulvaney also dismissed the possibility of having universal healthcare in the country.

"The only way to get truly universal care is to throw people in jail if they don't have it," he said. "And we are not going to do that."

He said the people need to keep in mind what the GOP plan is replacing.
 
"What you've got now is we're forcing people to buy it under ObamaCare under penalty of law, and people are still looking for a way not to buy it," he said.
 
"So, clearly, the government mandate doesn't work. The better process, the better function is exactly what we're trying to do now, which is to encourage people and enable them to buy a policy they want and can afford."
 
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, meanwhile, reaffirmed the president's goal to provide health insurance for all Americans and emphasized that the healthcare proposal is in the first of three phases.

“The president is committed to that, as am I and those of us at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Price said.

The bill moving through Congress now is just the first step in the process, Price said.
 
"The three steps include not just this bill, but the administrative changes that we're able to put in place at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Price added.

Price said the administration plans to test and then keep the bill provisions that benefit patients and drive down insurance costs.

“We're going to look at every one of them and make certain that we have those in place that actually help patients and drive down costs, and if they hurt patients and drive up costs, we're going to do away with them,” Price added.

He also said everyone "will have access to the kind of coverage that they want" when pressed on whether the bill in its third phase will provide every American with universal coverage.

But the GOP healthcare plan has faced strong resistance from conservative lawmakers, some of whom have dubbed the proposal "ObamaCare lite." 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he doesn't "believe" the plan will pas through Congress.

"I think there's enough conservatives that do not want 'ObamaCare lite,' " Paul said on ABC's "This Week."

Instead, he pushed for a clean repeal of ObamaCare.

Earlier this month, the CBO released a report projecting that the number of uninsured people would grow by 14 million in 2018 under the GOP healthcare plan. The report found that 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026.

The Trump administration and House GOP leaders are making two significant changes to the ObamaCare replacement bill ahead of an expected vote on Thursday.

Last Friday, the White House won support from conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) leaders by agreeing to give states the option to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients and to block grant Medicaid instead of the cap system in the bill.

The White House and House leaders are also eyeing increasing the tax credits in the bill. That move could garner support from centrists.

Republicans — including President Trump and Vice President Mike PenceMike (Michael) Richard PenceColbert imagines Trump’s postcards home during foreign trip Trump and Russia: A timeline on communications Trump tries to patch things up with Comey in latest 'Simpsons' short MORE — have been making pitches for the GOP's healthcare plan.

Pence on Saturday said during a speech at a paper company in Florida the bill moving through Congress is "an important step in the right direction."

"Just yesterday President Trump made it clear — he supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do," he said.

He said the plan was "pro-growth and pro-freedom." The vice president added he's aware of concerns with the plan, but he reassured people the administration is listening and working with Congress to improve the proposal.

Trump last made a pitch for the healthcare plan during a rally in Tennessee, painting himself as an arbiter between different groups within the GOP debating the bill.

"We're going to arbitrate, we're going to all get together. We're going to get something done," he said. "The end result is when you have phase one, phase two, phase three — it's going to be great."