Health and Science

'We'll work through it': HHS Secretary Price downplays resistance to Obamacare repeal bill

Sec. Price: Bill is a work in progress

The Trump administration's health secretary on Tuesday downplayed backlash to the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, repeatedly calling it a "work in progress."

Since House Republicans introduced a health-care reform bill Monday, the party has faced opposition from both its conservative wing and more moderate faction. Some lawmakers and key conservative interest groups say the plan too closely resembles the ACA, better known as Obamacare. Several moderate GOP senators raised concerns about the proposal phasing out Medicaid expansion, a key piece of the ACA.

Sec. Price: Medicaid is a system that doesn't work for patients

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price stressed that lawmakers are still early in the process, saying, "We'll work through" the disagreements over the plan because it is "an important process." That resistance and other hurdles threaten to slow the legislation and delay other parts of President Donald Trump's agenda that the administration plans to address following health care.

"This is the beginning of the process and we look forward to working with them and others," Price told reporters during the daily White House briefing.

Price stood next to a table which featured a printed copy of Monday's bill and the legislation by which the ACA was adopted during the Obama administration. After Price spoke, press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly pointed out that the Democratic bill was much larger, arguing that it showed government's outsize influence on the health-care system.

The Republican plan replaces the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to have coverage or pay a tax penalty, with a 30 percent surcharge if customers go weeks without insurance. Tax credits will also replace the ACA subsidies.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has called the GOP proposal "Obamacare Lite," while the conservative group Heritage Action for America said it "not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them."

Sec. Price: Want to give choice, have increased competition

Another conservative group, Club for Growth, criticized the bill's lack of a provision allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, which Trump promised during his campaign. In a tweet Tuesday, Trump said "don't worry," the plan is "getting rid of state lines." He said it will promote competition, but it is not clear if that will actually lower costs for consumers.

Price said Tuesday that allowing insurance sales across state lines may require legislation that needs Democratic support to pass.

Both Price and Spicer also hesitated to attach Trump's name to the health-care reform bill, calling it a long-term effort on which Republicans and stakeholders collaborated. In a Tuesday tweet, Trump called it "our wonderful new health care bill."

Spicer was also asked if Trump will sign the bill if the Congressional Budget Office score assesses that fewer people will be insured under the plan than are currently. He appeared to downplay the CBO score, saying it may not take into account changes the administration wants to add in later phases.

Watch: HHS Sec. on goal of Republican health care bill

Sec. Price: Goal is patient-centered health care