President Trump blasted Obamacare as “fiction” Wednesday and left the door open to withholding payments that help insurers reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses for patients if the latest repeal and replace effort fails.
Trump nevertheless told the Washington Examiner in an interview at the White House that Republicans were “very close” to passing a healthcare bill.
“Don’t forget, Obamacare took 17 months to get, and it’s a disaster,” Trump said. He added that the healthcare law would collapse without “paying the insurance companies a fortune” via cost-sharing reduction payments.
Trump argued that these payments to insurers should have been appropriated by Congress, but former President Obama proceeded without any legislative approval. House Republicans sued the Obama administration over this in 2014 and a federal court ruled in their favor last year, but left the subsidies in place pending appeal.
“[W]hat Obama was doing was illegal, because as you know the court decision said you have to get it approved by Congress,” Trump said.
Without the billions of dollars in subsidies, healthcare policy experts believe millions could be dropped from the plans they purchased through Obamacare exchanges and more insurers would exit those exchanges. The administration is currently continuing the payments to insurers.
The president maintained that insurers are already fleeing the Obamacare exchanges and premiums “have gone through the roof, they’ve skyrocketed.”
“So you really don’t have Obamacare, because you have insurance companies that are all pulling out,” Trump said. “So when people talk about Obamacare, it’s really fiction.”
Asked if he would either end the payments or get Congress to codify them, Trump said he would wait and see what happens with the latest version of the American Health Care Act, which is the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Well, what I want to do is, I want to see what happens with our bill first,” Trump replied, He extolled the legislation’s virtues before adding again, “So I really have to see what happens over the next couple of days or maybe weeks with respect to our plan before I make that decision.”
Trump described the Republican plan as “great healthcare at a lower cost.”
“We’re going to have premiums coming down, and they’ll really start tumbling down in two years, they will start tumbling, because the insurance companies will be so competitive,” he said. “And you’ll have health plans, you’ll have healthcare plans, that you’ve never even… heard about that will be so good.”
Trump was pleased with the progress being made on healthcare, as the latest revisions to the GOP bill have won Freedom Caucus support.
“The Republicans have really come together and the reason that they’ve come together, and a lot of them for different reasons, because you have a pretty big sphere of Republicans, but they’re all good people,” he said. “Some want to see the lower premiums, some want to see just better healthcare, it’s different people feeling different ways.”
Asked whether lowering premiums, increasing consumer choice, maintaining Obamacare coverage levels or reducing taxpayer federal spending on healthcare was his biggest priority, Trump responded, “I think we’re gonna do all of those things.”