The following article by Robert Pear and Kate Kelly was posted on the New York Times website February 28, 2017:
WASHINGTON — President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
The president also suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam that could delay other parts of his political agenda.
Many policy makers had anticipated the intricacies of changing the health care law, and Trump’s demands in the opening days of his administration to simultaneously repeal and replace Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement made the political calculations far more complicated.
Governors of both parties added still more confusion Monday when they called for any replacement to cover all the people already benefiting from the landmark law.
“Of course I am concerned,” said Governor Brian Sandoval, the Republican governor of Nevada, where about 300,000 people have gained Medicaid coverage. “I am someone who elected to expand Medicaid. That’s been very beneficial to my state, and I want to be sure those individuals can keep their coverage.”
“Governors are all in agreement,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat who is the chairman of the National Governors Association. “We do not want one single one of our citizens to lose access to quality health care. We are all unified on that. Actually, we want to expand, so everybody has access to quality health care.”
Trump brushed aside opinion polls suggesting that the 2010 health law was becoming somewhat more popular. “People hate it,” the president said, “but now they see that the end is coming and they’re saying, ‘Oh, maybe we love it.’ There’s nothing to love. It’s a disaster, folks.”
Because of the intricate procedures that govern budget legislation and the inherent complexity of health care, Republicans appear unlikely to undo the health law as quickly as they had hoped. Trump said Congress must tackle the Affordable Care Act before it can overhaul the tax code, also a high priority for Republicans. And those delays could slow work on other priorities like a billion-dollar infrastructure push.
“Statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do health care before we do the tax cut,” Trump told governors.
After his session with the governors, Trump met Monday with executives from health insurance companies. He apparently hopes they will stay in or return to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, where more than 10 million people obtained coverage last year.
If the governors’ meeting in Washington was supposed to clarify the future of the health law, it fell short. If anything, it exposed deep divisions among state executives, especially Republican leaders.
Governor Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a Republican, said: “We did not expand Medicaid. Many states are divided on what the right approach is to take under the Affordable Care Act.” Some Republican governors, he said, are concerned about the “sustainability” of the Medicaid program, which covers more than 70 million low-income people.
And no governor was ready to say publicly that he or she could accept a replacement health law covering fewer people than the Affordable Care Act, which has extended coverage to 20 million Americans.
A bill drafted by House Republicans could cover fewer people. It would roll back the health law’s expansion of Medicaid, eliminate tax penalties for people who do not have health insurance, and end taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act on certain high-income people, insurers, drug companies, and manufacturers of medical devices.
To help people buy insurance if they do not have coverage at work or under a government program, the bill would offer tax credits ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 a year, depending on age. But the credits would not fluctuate with a recipient’s income, raising the prospect that insurance might be less affordable for lower-income people.
The House Republican bill would also eliminate minimum federal standards for “essential health benefits,” and it could require some people with particularly expensive employer-sponsored coverage to pay taxes on some of its value.
The emergence of that draft has produced cries of opposition among Democrats and nervousness in some Republican quarters. Conservatives added their objections Monday, saying the tax credits could become a permanent entitlement. Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he could not vote for the bill in its current form because it could create “a new health insurance entitlement with a Republican stamp on it.”
Herbert said he could support the Republican proposal to give each state an allotment of federal money with a set amount for each Medicaid beneficiary — what he and other officials described as a per capita cap.
But Democratic governors generally oppose efforts by Republicans to give each state a fixed allotment for each beneficiary or a lump sum, known as a block grant, for its entire Medicaid program.