Health Insurance

Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators

Greg Nash

Two top advisers to President Trump on Wednesday discussed with GOP senators the need for Republicans to lower drug prices and act on health care costs ahead of the election, according to people familiar with the meeting. 

The discussion came at a retreat for GOP senators on Wednesday, where Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale and adviser Jared Kushner spoke. 

Kushner made a favorable mention of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and his work on drug prices, according to a source familiar with the meeting. The White House is supporting a bill from Grassley and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to lower drug prices, but many GOP senators have pushed back on that measure as well, warning it comes too close to “price controls.”

Much of the discussion was more general and focused on the need to act from an electoral perspective, the sources said. 

“Read the polls, for the American people it’s drug costs and price of health care overall,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told The Hill when asked about the meeting. 

Asked about Parscale and Kushner, Cassidy said, “They’re looking at the same polling data that we’re looking at.”

The Washington Examiner was first to report the focus on health care at the retreat. 

“I was glad it was brought up there, with the White House, with Jared Kushner and Parscale weighing in,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said of the need to lower health care costs. “They seemed favorable towards our needing to do something rather than be mum on the subject.”

Republicans have been shifting away from a focus on ObamaCare as the law gains in popularity and its polling rises after the party’s failed repeal attempt in 2017.

The GOP is now focused on attacking Democrats’ “Medicare for All” plans and bipartisan efforts to lower the cost of health care. 

Grassley told The Hill that some of the comments from senators in the meeting reflected that shift.

“We aren’t talking enough about health care and that repeal and replace doesn’t work anymore, you better start talking about lowering prices,” he said. 

However, those bipartisan efforts have run into intra-party splits among Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier this month that Republicans have “internal divisions” on Grassley’s bill and said it is too soon to know if it would get a vote. 

A Politico-Harvard poll this month found 80 percent of the public ranked lowering the cost of health care as “extremely” or “very” important, with the bipartisan support of 89 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans. 

Democrats, meanwhile, see health care as their winning issue in the campaign, after they won back the House in 2018 by highlighting GOP ObamaCare repeal efforts that would weaken pre-existing condition protections. 

House Democrats are touting their own drug pricing bill, which is even stronger than the Grassley-Wyden bill, but that Republicans argue will harm the development of new treatments. 

Grassley argues his bill is the only one that can appeal to both parties. 

“My bill is the only bipartisan bill that can get through Congress,” he said. 

Tags Bill Cassidy Brad Parscale Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Jared Kushner Mike Braun Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden

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