President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the progress he is making on overhauling Obamacare in recent weeks.
He has said he was putting finishing touches on a plan that would provide “insurance for everybody” and would submit a proposal as soon as his nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services is confirmed.
But according to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, a key player in the GOP’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, there may not be a Trump Obamacare plan.
“No. That’s not my understanding,” Hatch told CNN Tuesday afternoon when asked whether he believes Trump or his administration is working on a separate Obamacare proposal. “I don’t know what they have in mind other than they know it isn’t going to work.”
Hatch’s comments after he met in person with Trump last week to discuss a number of policy areas. The Utah Republican is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which plays a central role in considering health care-related legislation and also oversees the nomination of the HHS secretary.
Hatch said Tuesday that administration officials appear active in sharing their thoughts on repealing and replacing Obamacare, and that he welcomes cooperation between the Hill and the White House.
But again pressed on whether he believes Trump and White House officials are crafting a separate Obamacare plan, Hatch responded: “No.”
“The two leaders of Congress are trying to come together on what we can do on a plan,” Hatch said. “I think the White House is kind of molding it and working with us.”
The suggestion that Trump may not have an Obamacare blueprint that is distinct from what Republicans on the Hill are working on is in line with what some GOP aides have been saying privately.
It may also explain a particularly uncomfortable exchange that Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s HHS secretary nominee, had at a confirmation hearing last week.
Fielding questions from Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, Price seemed to suggest that he has not been working with the new President on a plan to replace Obamacare.
“President Trump said he’s working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation. Is that true?” Brown asked.
“It’s true that he said that, yes,” Price said, an awkward response that drew laughter from the hearing room.
“Not that he’s every done this before but did the President lie? Did the President lie about this, that he’s not working with you?” Brown pressed. “Did he lie to the public about working with you?”
Price, again, would not say that he was working with Trump on an Obamacare alternative, saying instead: “I’ve had conversations with the President about health care, yes.”