Trump changes tune on House healthcare bill, calls it ‘mean’

Donald Trump speaks in White House Rose Garden
President Donald Trump and GOP representatives celebrate the passage of the AHCA in the White House Rose Garden in May. (whitehouse.gov)

Though President Donald Trump celebrated when the American Health Care Act passed the House, on Tuesday, he called the bill “mean.”

Trump told a group of 15 senators during a White House lunch that he expects them to improve the bill during their rewrite, The Washington Post reported. Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said that Trump expressed his hopes that the bill would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and that the president discussed ways to include a tax credit that would protect elderly and lower-income people.

“I think he realizes, you know, our bill is going to move, probably, from where the House was and he seems fine with that,” Thune said. 

This is a tonal shift for Trump, who initially called for “insurance for everybody” on the campaign trail but threw his support fully behind the House’s bill. When the AHCA finally passed that chamber in early May, Trump held a press conference in the White House’s Rose Garden and tweeted that it was a “great day” for the country.

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As Trump hosted GOP leaders at the White House on Tuesday, the Senate continued working on its version of the bill. Negotiations this week have centered on the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces, including a proposal that would allocate billions in funding to smooth over the transition to a new model should the ACA repeal succeed, The Wall Street Journal reported (sub. req.).

This would include the cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs), which are a key concern for payers looking ahead to 2018.

Another sticking point in the plan is abortion, according to the article. Tax credits written into the House’s version of the AHCA do not have abortion restrictions on them, which some senators oppose. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for instance, said it would be “very problematic” not to include restrictions in those credits.

Despite the challenges, Vice President Mike Pence assured officials at the Department of Health and Human Services during a speech Tuesday that the Trump administration is committed to an ACA repeal.

“I can promise you this president is fighting every single day to rescue the American people from this policy, to repeal and replace Obamacare, and give the American people access to the world-class healthcare that every American deserves,” Pence said.