UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. EDT — House Speaker Paul Ryan said his American Health Care Act will be changed ahead of a likely Thursday vote to give more help to older Americans to buy insurance.
"We think that we should be offering even more assistance than what the bill currently does," Ryan, R-Wis., said on "Fox News Sunday."
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Sunday the American Health Care Act is just a first step in comprehensive healthcare reform that in the end will provide better, less expensive coverage for all Americans, but Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul said unless everything promised is in the bill, the AHCA is dead on arrival in the Senate.
Price, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week,” admitted Republicans are trying to thread “a fine needle” in pushing the current bill, which an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office indicates will take 24 million Americans off insurance rolls, especially older, lower-income individuals.
“They [members of Congress] know that the current law [the Affordable Care Act] doesn’t work. They know that premiums are going up. They know that deductibles are skyrocketing. They know that a lot of people have health coverage but no healthcare because they can’t afford the deductibles,” Price said on ABC.
It would take 21 Republicans in the House or three or four in the Senate to block the bill, which House Speaker Paul Ryan had hoped to ram through in the budget reconciliation process, which prevents Senate Democrats from filibustering.
Cruz, R-Texas, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” despite the problems with the ACA, aka Obamacare, the House bill likely won’t be approved by the Senate because it does not address all those problems immediately. He said the three-step procedure the administration is talking about to address healthcare is not acceptable.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said she believes people have a fundamental right to healthcare if they’re sick and taking insurance coverage away is not the answer. Collins noted federal law requires hospitals to treat people who arrive in emergency rooms whether or not they have insurance.
“But that is the least cost-effective way to treat an individual who does not need emergency-room care,” she said. “So there’s a lot that we can do to reduce the cost of healthcare for, by example, using managed care for the Medicaid program.”
Paul, R-Ky., was even more negative on “This Week,” saying, the AHCA, which was rolled out last week fails “to fix the fundamental problem of Obamacare.”
“The fundamental problem of Obamacare is the insurance mandates. When you mandate what has to be insurance, it elevates the price,” he said. “And when you tell people they can buy insurance after they're sick, they will. And you get what's called adverse selection. And so the adverse selection, the death spiral that everybody's talking about, will continue under the Paul Ryan plan. And my fear is that, a year from now, people are going to come back and we're going to have all the same arguments again that insurance premiums are still going through the roof and we still have a mess.”
Paul has suggested AARP members be able to “negotiate and buy a group policy of insurance. And that would drive prices down, particularly for people leading right up to retirement, but on into their retirement years. It’s the only thing that would work to bring prices down.”
He said Republicans are making a mistake by not considering that.
“This is the biggest political mistake of Republicans who are not even thinking about how this is going look. They call it repeal and replace,” Paul said. “But when it doesn't fix the problems and you say you've fixed the problems, they're going to own it. And I promise you, in a year, the insurance markets will still be unraveling. The insurance will be still be begging for more handouts.”