Alexander: Trump called him on ObamaCare fix bill

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) said President Trump called him Wednesday morning expressing optimism about the bipartisan health plan. 

"He called me to say that, number one, he wanted to be encouraging about the bipartisan agreement that Sen. [Patty] Murray and I announced yesterday," Alexander said at an Axios event Wednesday. 

"Number two, he intends to review it carefully to see if he wants to add anything to it." 


Still, nearly simultaneously, Trump doubled down on his mixed signals by tweeting that although he respects Alexander, he can not support "bailing out" insurance companies that he says have made a "fortune" on ObamaCare.

Alexander and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Health Committee, announced Tuesday afternoon that they'd reached a deal to stabilize the insurance markets by funding ObamaCare's insurer payments for two years. 

It would also change rules that insurers must meet under the health-care law as long as consumers are still offered “comparable” affordability.

But Trump has given mixed signals on whether he would support the bill if it gets to his desk. 

His administration announced last week it would cancel the insurer payments, which are intended to help insurers provide coverage to low-income consumers, because they were being made illegally. 

Trump encouraged Alexander to work with Democrats on a deal, Alexander said. 

But Trump described the insurer payments as a bailout during a speech Tuesday night. 

"I'm pleased that Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their ObamaCare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much needed relief to the American people," Trump said.

"While I commend the bipartisan work being done by Sens. Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the ObamaCare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies," he added.

Alexander indicated that Trump views the deal as a stopgap while Republicans work toward repealing and replacing ObamaCare. 

Republicans plan to turn back toward health care in 2018 after tax reform with a plan authored by Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTrump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Dem ad accuses Heller of 'lying' about record on pre-existing conditions GOP senator suggests criminal referral for third Kavanaugh accuser's 'apparently false affidavit' MORE (R-La.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.).

Alexander said he would likely support that plan, which would convert ObamaCare funding into block grants to the states. 
But states that expanded Medicaid would get cuts, while states that didn't would likely get more funding. 

"I think Bill Cassidy did a good job with his bill," Alexander said.