If Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is right then the GOP is going to have a very hard time getting their new healthcare bill through Congress.
While a group of some 40+ GOP Representatives and Senators have already made their opposition to the bill known, the White House has been working hard to convince them to fall in line. Senator Cruz was one of those skeptics who seemed most ready to support the bill, but his most recent interview with CBS’ John Dickerson may be a dire warning for the GOP supporters of the healthcare bill. While Cruz is open to supporting the bill, he told Dickerson that unless they find a compromise that will immediately drive down premium costs… he cannot vote for this bill.
DICKERSON: What is it that you are trying to fix with the health care plan?
CRUZ: The number one issue is premiums — premiums, premiums, premiums. When I am back home in Texas, what I hear from Texans every single day is, I can’t afford health insurance, that Obamacare, the average family’s premiums, they have risen over $5,000 under Obamacare. That’s the central problem. Now, the current House bill, as drafted, I do not believe it will pass the Senate. It doesn’t fix the problem. My biggest concern with the House bill is, it doesn’t lower premiums. And CBO, in fact, projected that, in the first two years, premiums would rise 10 to 20 percent.
DICKERSON: Although it did say then they would go down.
CRUZ: It did. But I got to tell you, if Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we have repealed Obamacare, and everyone’s premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets, and quite rightfully.
DICKERSON: Do you think, Senator, the same about that coverage question? Twenty-four million, the CBO said.
CRUZ: Look, the coverage question, it is actually interrelated to premiums.
If premiums keep going up — one of the big problems with Obamacare, people can’t afford health insurance. You know, a couple of weeks ago, I did a debate with Bernie Sanders, two-hour town hall on Obamacare.
The next day, I was having dinner here in Washington, and two waitresses I know well, they both came up to me and they said — one said, you know what? My premiums have tripled in the last three years. They went from $400 a month to $1,200 a month. She said, for the first time in my life, I don’t have health insurance. She also said, for the first time in my life, this restaurant put me at under 30 hours a week. They put me at 29.99. I don’t have insurance. The second waitress who I also know well said she was four months’ pregnant, and she had just gotten a notification from her insurance that the doctor that she likes and trusts can’t deliver her baby because he is not covered.
DICKERSON: So, how do you fix it then?
CRUZ: We have got to fix that. We can do that in the House bill. But the only way to drive down premiums is, we need to repeal the insurance mandates. There are 12 insurance mandates that are in Obamacare. The House bill only touches two of them. We need to repeal those mandates to drive down costs. We need to allow purchases across state lines. We need to allow association health plans. And we need to allow people to pay premiums from health savings accounts. All of those will make it much more affordable for people to get health insurance.
The relevant portion begins about 2:30 into the video, though the entire interview is worth watching.
Senator Cruz also called a major part of the GOP’s healthcare plan a “sucker’s” bet. Why? Cruz believes that after getting the first part of the Obamacare replacement plan passed, it will be even more difficult to pass part 2, and part 3 will likely be impossible since by then the GOP will have likely lost seats in both the House and Senate. Meaning that Cruz, like many other conservatives worried about this Healthcare bill, actually believes that part 3 will never actually happen.
DICKERSON: The president and the House speaker say that is going to happen, it is going to be a two-step process, first the American Health Care Act goes through, and then this second set of legislation comes on.
You are chuckling.
CRUZ: That ain’t going to happen. It’s their so-called three bucket solution, which is all the good stuff is in bucket three? Bucket three takes eight Democrats. Right now, Senate Democrats are opposing everything. You can’t get eight Senate Democrats to agree on saying good morning. Anything in bucket three — I have called bucket three the sucker’s bucket. And what I have been urging the president and the administration and leader in both houses, take everything in bucket three, put it in bucket one. We have got to actually fix this problem.
DICKERSON: Their argument is that you can’t do it all in this, what you are calling bucket one, in the American Health Care Act that Paul Ryan and the president support because the rules of the Senate just will not allow it, and so that you’re — that is what you are up against here.
CRUZ: But that is fundamentally false. The rules of the Senate, we’re on what is called budget reconciliation. It is governed by the Budget Act of 1974.
It lays out a test for what is permissible on reconciliation, six-part test. The central part of the test is, it is budgetary in nature? If it is budgetary in nature, you can do it. If it’s not, you can’t. You look at the insurance mandates, they impact billions of dollars of federal spending. And I will point out the Obama Justice Department went before the U.S. Supreme Court twice, and argued the mandates are integrally related, they’re intertwined with the subsidies, you cannot sever them.
Under the statute, we can do this now in bucket one. And if we don’t, this bill doesn’t pass. And if it doesn’t pass, it is a substantive and political disaster for everyone involved.
DICKERSON: If it doesn’t have these reforms about the mandates in it in the Senate bill, will you not vote for it?
CRUZ: I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising.
Texans have — look, there has been no issue I have devoted more time and energy to than Obamacare, stopping this disaster. We had a chance for an incredible substantive win for American people. And I have got to tell you, I am spending night and day meeting with House members, meeting with senators, meetings with the administration. Just yesterday, I spent three hours at Mar-a-Lago with Mike Lee and with Mark Meadows negotiating with the president’s team, trying to fix this bill.
DICKERSON: Does the president get this?
CRUZ: We have had multiple conversations. The vice president and I have had multiple conversations. As he said on what you played a minute ago, President Trump said, this is one big, fat negotiation. Here is the central prize. If we lower premiums, and hopefully lower them a lot, that is a victory for the American people. If premiums keep going up, that is a victory for insurance companies and lobbyists, but it’s a loss for the people who elected us.
The answer to this mess is clear. The GOP must scrap the current healthcare bill, repeal Obamacare in it’s entirety, and only then begin working on new solutions to the problems we face in the healthcare industry. This is the order events must proceed in, otherwise we’ll simply be right back in this position a few years down the road.