WASHINGTON – Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Wednesday gave a full-throated defense of the House GOP’s health care overhaul, hours after Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged changes would need to be made to save the embattled plan.
The former Georgia congressman, who has become the face of the White House-backed bill, defended the legislation’s treatment of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare to a cancer survivor who said his life was saved by the program. He voiced support for the bill’s reversal of an Affordable Care Act provision taxing health insurance CEOs and promised more choice and flexibility for Americans. And he walked back a recent headline-making statement that “nobody will be worse off financially” under the GOP legislation.
Price’s remarks came during an hour-long town hall on CNN. His performance overall was classic Price: studied, very much on-message and even-keeled.
Price sought to project calm and stability as he took questions from the audience during a critical point in the health care debate when the fate of the GOP is far from certain.
Indeed, the American Health Care Act is continuing to shed would-be supporters in the House days after some pretty harsh estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Conservatives oppose the plan because it doesn’t go far enough in stripping away Obamacare’s framework. More moderate Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid are concerned about constituents losing health care coverage
Earlier Wednesday, Ryan for the first time acknowledged that changes would need to be made in order to pass the House and that he would “incorporate feedback” from Republican lawmakers as Price and Vice President Mike Pence continued to make the rounds with holdouts and opponents. Ryan can only afford to lose about 20 Republicans and still ensure House passage in the face of united Democratic opposition.
The Senate remains a different story.
As he did earlier this week, Price was critical of the CBO’s assessment of the Republican health plan, saying that Congress’ scorekeeper only analyzed one-third of the administration’s plans for the system and that its report was subsequently incomplete.
\He expressed confidence that Congress would pass a replacement plan.
“We’ll get this through,” he said. “Almost regardless of ideological strife, the American people want the same things in health care. They want a system that’s affordable, accessible, with the highest quality that incentivizes innovation … and empowers patients through accountability, transparency and choices.”
Watch some of the highlights here:
More on the Republican health care plan: