WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy Thursday called on President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans to “abandon the trainwreck of their health care bill” and instead work with Democrats to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act.
“Let’s work together to keep what’s working in the Affordable Care Act and fix what’s not,” Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said while giving a PowerPoint presentation criticizing the American Health Care Act that was unveiled last week.
Murphy said the three key components of what some have dubbed “Trumpcare” are there will be higher costs for all Americans, except the young, healthy and affluent. Additionally, he said 14 million would lose health care right away and 24 million would lose it by 2026. Lastly, Murphy said, Trumpcare provides “tax cuts for the rich.”
The health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting shots from both sides and the White House and top House Republicans acknowledged Wednesday they would make changes to the legislation in hopes of nailing down votes and pushing the party’s showpiece legislation through the chamber soon.
During an interview with CNN, Ryan went as far as declining to commit to bringing the measure to the House floor next week, a fresh indication of uncertainty. Republican leaders have repeatedly said that was their schedule, but opposition mushroomed after the Congressional Budget Office concluded this week that the measure would strip 24 million people of coverage in a decade.
Ryan told reporters that GOP leaders could now make “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the legislation, reflecting an urgency to buttress support. The measure would strike down much of former President Barack Obama’s 2010 overhaul and reduce the federal role, including financing, for health care consumers and is opposed uniformly by Democrats.
Murphy said Thursday, though, that he worries that Ryan and other Republican leaders are just trying to tweak Trumpcare to get the necessary moderate Republican votes to pass the legislation.
“I worry that the bar has been set so low,” Murphy said, adding that 24 million people losing insurance is such a hard figure to “wrap your head around,” that if somehow the legislation was reconfigured so that only 20 million people lost coverage, it would seem like a win to some.
To illustrate his point, in his PowerPoint presentation Murphy showed a slide that 24 million people is the equivalent of the population of one-third of the states, albeit smaller ones, in the country.
“The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect,” Murphy said. “But it can be improved. Both parties should work together on doing that and abandon this disastrous approach.”
Murphy noted that the congressional analysis of Trumpcare notes that one group in particular gets slammed — older Americans. “Trumpcare really sticks it to people who are older.”
A 64-year-old, low-income person would see an annual increase of $13,000” in insurance premiums, Murphy claimed.
One of the biggest differences between Trumpcare and Obamacare, Murphy said, is that older Americans don’t have their costs spike nearly as much under Obamacare.
Trump, on Wednesday, said work on the health plan will continue.
“We’re going to arbitrate, we’re all going to get together, we’re going to get something done,” Trump promised a crowd at a rally in Nashville Wednesday.
At an all-hands meeting Wednesday evening of House Republican lawmakers, Vice President Mike Pence and party leaders urged their rank-and-file to unite behind the legislation.
“‘It’s our job to get it out of here and get it to the Senate,’” Pence told the Republicans, according to Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. That would let Trump pressure “Democrats in these red states to come on board,’” Ross said, referring to Republican-leaning states where Democratic senators face re-election next year.
Health secretary Tom Price was using phone calls to lobby Republican governors, some of whom — with home-state GOP members of Congress — oppose the bill’s phase out of Medicaid expansion, which made it possible for an additional 11 million lower-income Americans get coverage.
Amid the maneuvering, a government report said more than 12 million people have signed up for coverage this year under the very statute that Trump and congressional Republicans want to repeal. That figure underscored the potential political impact of the GOP’s next move.
Conservatives want to end Medicaid expansion immediately, and not wait until after the next presidential election in 2020. They say a GOP proposed tax credit to help people pay medical costs is too generous, and they want to terminate all of Obama’s insurance requirements, including mandatory coverage of specified services like drug counseling.
Underscoring the push-pull problem GOP leaders face in winning votes, moderates feel the tax credits are too stingy, especially for low income earners and older people. They oppose accelerating the phaseout of the Medicaid expansion and are unhappy with long-term cuts the measure would inflict on the entire program.
The bill would eliminate Obama’s individual mandate, the requirement that Americans buy coverage, by abolishing the tax fine on violators. It would end subsidies that help low-income people with high insurance premiums the most and replace them with tax credits that are bigger for older people. It would cut Medicaid, repeal the law’s tax increases on higher earning Americans and require 30 percent higher premiums for consumers who let coverage lapse.
The bill made it through the House Budget Committee Thursday with three Republicans voting against the measures. One more dissenting Republican vote would have blocked the measure.