WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer distanced President Trump from the GOP health care bill in his daily briefing Tuesday while insisting the commander in chief is “proud of it.”
The plan, which would replace Obamacare, has come under fire from Democrats and conservatives. While Trump and his administration have backed the bill, it is the brainchild of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and contradicts many of the health care promises Trump made during his presidential campaign. Though the bill has been widely referred to as “Trumpcare,” and the president famously attached his name to all his private business ventures, Spicer and other administration officials have rejected that branding.
At the briefing, Yahoo News asked Spicer whether any element of the health care bill would need to be changed for Trump “to be comfortable putting his name” on it. Spicer said the president is “proud of” the legislation but also noted it isn’t Trump’s plan, and came through a “joint effort” with congressional Republicans.
“I mean, this is the American Health Care Act, the president’s proud of it, the president’s proud of the fact that we’re working with Congress. But this is a bill that’s — it’s not his — it’s a joint effort that we’ve worked with the House and Senate on,” Spicer said.
Spicer also pointed out President Barack Obama’s administration “didn’t label it ‘Obamacare,’ they called it the ACA.”
“He’s proud of it; he’s proud of the impact that it’s going to have on American patients,” Spicer said of Trump. “So I don’t think this is about labels and names; this is about getting the job done.”
Democrats have lambasted the plan and pointed to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that predicted that, by 2026, it would leave 24 million more Americans without coverage than Obamacare. Along with the criticism from Democrats, there has been opposition to the health care bill from conservatives who wanted a full repeal of Obamacare and believe the new plan keeps too many elements of its predecessor in place.
Spicer and other administration officials have disputed that analysis. In the briefing, Spicer said the CBO’s analyses of Obamacare “were way off.” The fact-checking site Politifact has said that argument is “half true” because it ignores the fact the office’s Obamacare estimates could not have taken into account a subsequent Supreme Court decision on Medicaid expansion that led to nineteen states refusing to expand eligibility for that program. Spicer also criticized the CBO for not considering that the new health care proposal is a “three-pronged plan,” and merely looking at the first piece of the legislation.
“The two other prongs of our plan contain several additional reforms that will further drive down costs and increase coverage,” said Spicer.
The White House has said there will be three parts to the health care plan, but the details of the second and third pieces have not been made public. According to the White House, the second phase will involve regulatory adjustments, and the third will include bills that allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines.
Trump previously promised to provide “insurance for everybody.” During the briefing, Spicer was repeatedly asked how the proposed health care bill fits with that vow. Contradicting the CBO estimates, Spicer predicted the new plan would cover more people than Obamacare. He noted that under Obamacare, many people are paying a penalty for not complying with the mandate to have coverage, and others have applied for hardships saying they can’t afford a plan. Spicer also argued many plans have high deductibles that effectively leave people paying all of their costs out of pocket. While he didn’t repeat Trump’s promise that “everybody” would have coverage under the new bill, Spicer argued more of the people who “want” insurance will have it.
“You’re going to see more people want coverage who are going to choose coverage,” Spicer said.
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