ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday grilled the new director of the Office of Management and Budget over Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
In an interview on “This Week,” Stephanopoulos pressed Mick Mulvaney over whether President Donald Trump was walking back his wildly ambitious campaign promises to repeal Obamacare while replacing it with a plan that offered more coverage at a cheaper price while not making cuts to Medicare or Medicaid.
“So far, the independent analyses of your bill show that 6 to 15 million Americans are going to lose their coverage they now have under Obamacare, and there will be about $370 billion less in federal funding for Medicaid for the next 10 years,” the anchor said. “So how do square that impact with the president’s promises?”
Mulvaney argued that the analyses of the effects of the replacement plan introduced last week by House Republicans, called the American Healthcare Act, overestimated the positive impact of Obamacare, saying struggling insurance markets in some states may not increase coverage.
He added that when he was a member of Congress, he purchased healthcare through one of the exchanges.
“I was on Obamacare when I was in the House. My family deductibles were over $15,000 a year. Other folks who don’t make as much money as I did were on the exact same plan. Do you think they could afford to go to the doctor? That’s what we’re trying to fix – not coverage for people, not coverage they can’t afford, but care they an afford.”
Stephanopoulos continued to press the new OMB director. He cited analyses from the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, which has concluded that the bill will provide hundreds of billions in tax cuts to Americans making over $1 million annually, and the interest group AARP, which said the legislation would force older Americans and people who make less to pay more for insurance. “How is that fair?” Stephanopoulos asked.
Mulvaney dismissed the estimates, arguing that the AARP was “not in the business of fixing things” and instead was “trying to protect their own self-interests to and to raise money.” “That’s the same group, AARP, that did the television ads of a guy that looks a lot like Paul Ryan pushing granny off the edge of a cliff back when we first started talking about budgetary reforms back in 2010. And my guess is that the millions of emails that that group and other groups are sending out today have a little ‘click here to donate’ button at the bottom,” Mulvaney said.
The exchange became heated after Mulvaney disagreed with the point that critics claimed the plan was a “massive transfer of wealth from lower-income Americans to upper-income Americans.”
“Millions are going to be paying more and the wealthy are going to be getting a tax cut. But let me move on now to the state of the union,” Stephanopoulos said. “George, I’m sorry – I won’t let you move on from that,” Mulvaney interjected. “I mean, you’re taking that as if it’s gospel truth. That’s the argument of a group of people who don’t like the bill. So we repeal the taxes in Obamacare. It’s what the Republicans have done from the very beginning. The fact that certain groups will pay less tax is not central to the issue. We’ve done this in a fashion that allows the people who cannot afford healthcare now to get it.”
The two continued to spar over the president’s promise, which Mulvaney claimed would expand “care,” but may not extend “coverage.”
“Those who are getting subsidies right now, they’re going to be getting fewer. The tax credit is going to be worth less than the subsidies and insurance companies are going to be free, under your bill, to charge older Americans more,” the ABC anchor said. “You’re falling into the exact same trap I talked about at the opening of this segment. You’re worried about getting people covered,” Mulvaney said, before Stephanopoulos cut him off.
“The president said he wanted everyone covered, sir. The president said that,” Stephanopoulos interjected. “He wants everybody to get care. And that’s what we are doing,” Mulvaney replied. “That’s not what he said. The president said he wants to everyone covered,” Stephanopoulos said.
Following the bill’s introduction last week, many politicians and groups from the right and left sides of the political spectrum panned its proposals.
While the bill is likely to face universal opposition from Democrats in both chambers of Congress, it is unclear whether it even has the necessary Republican support to pass.
Many members of the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of the most conservative members of the House, have publicly opposed the current version of the bill, arguing that the bill does not adequately eliminate some of the tax credits imposed by Obamacare.
Some Senate Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton voiced similar concerns with the bill, arguing that not only was it moving too fast through the House, but that it also risked an electoral backlash for Republicans if it passed.
“I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they are going to put the House majority at risk next year,” Cotton said on “This Week” on Sunday.
He added: “We should take a pause, try to solve as many as the problems on both Medicaid and the individual insurance market in this bill in the House, and then allow the Senate to take its work up.”