House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Sunday said he felt “very good” about the chances that the House would pass the Republicans’ healthcare bill, even as changes were being made to lure votes, such as providing more assistance for older Americans.
“We’re still having conversations with our members,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re making fine-tuning improvements to the bill to reflect people’s concerns, to reflect peoples’ improvements.”
He said the House was likely to bring the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement to floor vote on Thursday. Asked about the likelihood of passage, Ryan said, “I feel very good about it, actually.”
Part of the confidence stems from President Trump’s involvement in “helping us close this bill,” Ryan said.
“We have a president who is rolling up his sleeves…. He’s helping us make sure that we bridge differences with members who are bringing constructive ideas and solutions for how to make this bill better,” Ryan said.
Among the changes being considered are allowing states to impose a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients and increasing tax credits for lower income and older Americans, he said.
The analysis released last week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that the House Republican plan would provide less assistance to older, low-income Americans than Obamacare while allowing insurers to charge older customers up to five times more than younger consumers.
Under Obamacare, insurers can charge only three times more.
“We believe we should have even more assistance, and that’s one of the things we’re looking at, for that person in the 50s and 60s because they experience higher healthcare costs,” Ryan said.
He emphasized that until the bill is on the floor for a vote, “we are always making improvements.”
Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, said the Trump administration was open to changes to address the effects on older Americans and other concerns.
“If it needs more beefing up… for folks who are low-income, between 50 and 64 years of age, that’s something we’ve talked about, that’s something we’ve entertained,” Price told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“We’ve talked to so many folks in the House of Representatives to try to see what their discomfort level is, if they have any, with this piece of legislation,” he said.
But Price acknowledged that changes to the House bill could potentially cost Republican votes in the Senate.
“It’s a fine needle that needs to be threaded,” Price said.
But there’s enough Republican opposition in the Senate to put the House plan in trouble there unless significant changes are made.
“The current House bill, as drafted, I do not believe it would pass the Senate,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Cruz said he can’t vote for a bill that allows health insurance premiums to continue to rise. He noted that the CBO projected that the bill would cause premiums to rise as much as 20% during the first two years before they start going down.
“If Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we’ve repealed Obamacare and everyone’s premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us on the streets, and quite rightly,” Cruz said.
Follow @JimPuzzanghera on Twitter