WASHINGTON -- Trump administration officials mounted a strong defense of the Republican health care bill Sunday, insisting that it will increase coverage, reduce costs and leave no one worse off.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defined success on NBC's "Meet the Press" as "more people covered than are covered right now, and at an average cost that is less. And I believe we can firmly do that with the plan that we've laid out there."
And Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told ABC's "This Week" that the "truly indigent" will not lose out, as liberal interest groups charge. "Medicaid is still there," he said. "In fact, we think it’s going to be even better."
Those rosy forecasts soon will come up against the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the Republican bill's impact, expected as early as Monday — that is likely to predict millions of people will lose health insurance coverage under the plan. Price on Sunday rejected one estimate of 15 million people losing coverage.
But conservative lawmakers continued to criticize their own party's bill Sunday, led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who flatly predicted that passage in the House this spring could lead to a Democratic takeover in the 2018 mid-term elections.
The plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, would retain some provisions of former President Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, including the requirement that insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions. But it would phase out the expansion of Medicaid in 2020, alter the system of tax credits, repeal penalties for those who do not buy insurance, and allow insurers to charge older patients five times as much as younger ones.
The bill cleared two House committees last week on party-line votes after marathon sessions. It still must go through two more House committees before reaching the floor, possibly by the end of March. Then it would go to the Senate, and any differences would have to be reconciled before it reached President Trump's desk.
The White House sent Price and Mulvaney out Sunday to make the case for the bill, which also was being championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Ryan agreed with Trump that if Republicans can't pass their plan, they could face a bloodbath in 2018. "If you don't do that, you are breaking your word," he said.
Price said on NBC that he believes "nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through, understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy."
"I believe, and the president believes firmly, that if you create a system that's accessible for everybody and you provide the financial feasibility for everybody to get coverage, that we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now."
Mulvaney recounted that when he was in the House, his family bought insurance under Obamacare, and the deductibles were more than $15,000 a year. "Other folks who don’t make as much money as I did were on the exact same plan," he said. "Do you think they could afford to go to the doctor?"