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The Next Steps In The Effort To Pass The GOP Health Care Plan


President Trump had a word to describe a House Republican health insurance bill. He said the American Health Care Act is mean. The president said the same bill that he supported in a Rose Garden ceremony not long ago is too stingy with health care subsidies, and he wants to be more generous. The president said that in a meeting with senators who are drafting their own version of the bill and doing it in secret.

Let's begin our discussion with a House Republican who voted for the American Health Care Act. Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois is on the line. He's a member of the Tuesday Group, moderate Republicans in the House. Congressman, welcome to the program.

RODNEY DAVIS: Hey, thanks for having me on.

INSKEEP: So - so is your legislation mean, as the president says?

DAVIS: Well, I certainly don't think so. And I wish he would have chosen a different word to describe maybe some concerns he and his administration may have with the House bill. I was in multiple meetings - three personal meetings with groups with the president during the negotiations of this bill - worked with Vice President Pence and many of my colleagues even further at other meetings, where the president wasn't at.

But I hope we also come to the understanding - and that the president and his administration realizes the current ACA is what is mean to many American people. Twenty-nine million people in this country don't have coverage now. Another 31 million can't afford the coverage they have. That's what's mean.

INSKEEP: I understand the argument you're making, that this legislation - the current legislation isn't working. But when you compare it with Obamacare, it does - your bill does cut subsidies for a lot of people - say if you're in your mid-50s, you lost your regular job. You're shopping for insurance. You're going to pay thousands and thousands more in subsidies, right?

DAVIS: Well, we don't - we don't believe that's the case. We believe we're going to inject more marketplace reforms and competitions into the health care market - allow groups like AARP to band together on a nationwide basis to lower prices so that those tax credits, regardless of age, go much further for products that people are going to buy.

INSKEEP: OK, AARP, the - which, of course, represents people over 50 in this country. I'd like to ask, Congressman, because now your bill, of course, is being considered by the Senate, which is writing its own version. What do you make of Senate Republicans choosing to work out their changes privately, in secret, without public hearings?

DAVIS: Well, I certainly hope, as we move forward, that American people, just like with the House bill, got a chance to read it. Our bill is 126 pages - there are 14 pages of amendments. And we know that the Senate will do the same. This is not a large piece of legislation. And Democrats, instead of - instead of what they did in the House - sitting back and talking about what they wanted to do to help the 60 million Americans that don't have coverage or can't afford to use the coverage they have - they sat back and complained about this process.

I would hope that - in the Senate, that they're going to participate in this process. I think we can make some better changes to the Medicaid side of our bill. And I hope that the senators and some of those whom I've talked to take advantage of those opportunities to do so.

INSKEEP: Forgive me. It doesn't seem like there is a process to take part in. What we're hearing from Senate Republicans is they're going to work out their bill privately among themselves. In fact, not all Senate Republicans say that they feel well-informed. And then it's going to be released just a very short time before it's voted on. There's no process.

DAVIS: Well, there's always - this is - this is the legislative process. Doesn't matter what piece of legislation there is, there's always going to be a process. And somebody's going to complain about it. I would hope that people who don't feel like they're included in the debate do what they do best on every other piece of legislation. Get involved. Talk to the leaders. Become a legislator rather than complaining about the legislative process.

INSKEEP: I should mention, Congressman, we invited Senate Republicans to talk about this legislation here on MORNING EDITION, and not one that we reached out to agreed at this time. And it does occur to me, as I'm talking to you, you may be stuck with whatever the Senate ultimately passes.

They're going to release this bit of legislation. If it does pass, it's going to be sent back to the House. And you, as a House member, may have to go back to Illinois with a piece of legislation very different from the one that you voted on already. Are you worried that some senators might put one over on you?

DAVIS: Oh, not at all. I'm sorry I was second or third or fourth choice to coming on today without any senators.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I don't mean it that...

DAVIS: So thanks for reminding me of that (laughter).

INSKEEP: I don't mean it that way, Congressman. We're very happy to have you. But we would have liked to have had them too is the point.

DAVIS: Oh, no, no, thank - thank you. But let me tell you. If the Senate comes back with a bill that is different than ours, I think some of the changes to our base bill are going to positively impact states like Illinois when it comes to our Medicaid system and Medicaid side. We have - our Medicaid expansion population in Illinois, 44 percent are ages 19 to 34.

We've got to figure out ways to implement this work requirement that's here in states that drive the cost of Medicaid up. And that's exactly what I hope comes out of the Senate. That's what I've been working with our senators on.

INSKEEP: Are you comfortable with hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, which is part of the House bill right now?

DAVIS: I'm more comfortable with a system that's going to work to reduce the cost of Medicaid so that Medicaid for the aged and disabled are going to work for every single American, so that each state - and even states like Illinois, have a great Medicaid program that's working.

INSKEEP: Congressman Davis, you really are our first choice, in spite of any other suggestion.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: Thanks very much for joining us this morning. I really appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Republican Rodney Davis of Illinois' 13th District. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.