WASHINGTON — Facing a wave of criticism over the GOP health care bill, the White House said Sunday it’s now up to the Senate to address any problems with the measure.
President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said in an interview that aired Sunday that, “I’m excited where we’re at” on health care, adding by pushing the bill through the House last week, “the president achieved something that no one thought he would.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Priebus said the ball was now in the court of the Senate, which is considered unlikely to pass the measure in its present form.
House Democrats have predicted the GOP-authored provisions will harm millions of Americans by depriving them of health insurance, and, not incidentally, do serious damage to Republicans’ chances in 2018 midterm elections.
Some Republican lawmakers already have faced hostile receptions from constituents worried the bill could cause thousands of unnecessary deaths and leave those who already are sick vulnerable to vast premium increases.
Priebus played down those concerns.
“We ... believe it is up to the Senate — if there are improvements to be made — to make those improvements,” Priebus said, echoing sentiments expressed by Trump in a tweet shortly before the interview aired.
Trump said last week after House passage of the controversial measure that “it could be, maybe, even a little better” in a Senate version.
“It’s a very good bill right now,” he said then.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” called the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, a “rescue mission.”
Ryan addressed one of the just-passed bill’s most controversial provisions, allowing states to opt out of requiring insurers to sell plans to those who already are sick, declaring, “no matter what, you cannot be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing (health) condition.”
Interviewer George Stephanopoulos interjected: “But you can charge people more.”
Ryan pointed to the addition of $8 billion meant to shield those with pre-existing conditions. Health care experts have said that pool of money represents a fraction of what would be needed if states are allowed to loosen existing restrictions on how high the premiums for people who already are sick could be allowed to go.
Sounding hoarse, Ryan said those most affected by rising premiums would be those who deliberately had let their coverage lapse.
“It’s kind of like waiting until your house is on fire to then buy your homeowners insurance. You want to make sure that people stay covered to keep the cost down,” he said.
Opponents of the bill say many of those who will allow their coverage to lapse, including the sickest Americans, would have done so because they were priced out of purchasing a health plan.
Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, suggested the numerous health care advocacy groups that came out strongly against the measure were not familiar with its provisions.
“I believe they’re not recognizing that this is different and, we believe, a better way to cover individuals with pre-existing illnesses and injuries,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”