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President Donald Trump told conservative groups that if the GOP leadership’s American Health Care Act did not pass, he would allow Obamacare to collapse and blame its failure on Democrats.
Trump revealed his strategy during a meeting with the conservative groups FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party Patriots at the White House on Wednesday. His comments were first reported by CNN’s Jim Acosta and were confirmed to Business Insider by a source with knowledge of the meeting.
The first attempt at an Obamacare replacement supported by the House GOP leadership and Trump, the AHCA has faced opposition from conservative Republicans and organizations for not going far enough in repealing Obamacare.
Conservative groups say the AHCA’s tax credits that allow people to purchase insurance are a “Republican entitlement” and the whole bill is simply “Obamacare Lite” or “Obamacare 2.0.”
After the meeting, the heads of the various groups in attendance struck a conciliatory tone but still expressed concerns over the new bill.
“We shared our concerns with the bill, including the refundable tax credit, continued enrollment under Medicaid expansion, the likelihood of a ‘doc fix’ scenario of Medicaid expansion as it winds down in 2020, the continuous-coverage language, and remaining regulations in the bill,” FreedomWorks’ president, Adam Brandon, said.
“The concerns that have been raised by Sen. Paul, Sen. Lee, and members of the House Freedom Caucus are real, and we believe that we can negotiate on these provisions, address them in a substantive way, and get to ‘yes’ on this bill and throw Obamacare into the dustbin of history,” he added.
David McIntosh of the Club for Growth said the president “listened” to the groups’ concerns.
“The president wants to get something done, and he urged us to stay supportive,” a statement from McIntosh said. “We laid out our major concerns about the lack of free-market reforms in this bill, the continuation of the Medicaid expansion, and the refundable tax credits.”
At the same time, more Americans appear to have warmed to Obamacare, with polls showing the Affordable Care Act hitting its highest level of popularity ever.
Trump has long said allowing the law to remain unchanged would lead it to collapse, which would allow him to easily pass a replacement bill. The president said while that would be the politically easier path, he wanted to be proactive about a replacement.
Health-policy experts, however, have said Obamacare has not fallen under the technical definition of a “death spiral” that would indicate a collapse.