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House Budget chair predicts success for GOP health bill

March 10, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
Before the House Republican’s health care plan can receive its final vote in the House of Representatives, it needs to clear one more hurdle. Judy Woodruff speaks with Tennessee Rep. Diane Black, chair of the Budget Committee, about the bill’s next steps.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Before the congressional Republicans’ health care plan can get a final vote in the House of Representatives, it needs to clear one more hurdle: the House Budget Committee.

We turn now to the chairman of that committee. She’s Representative Diane Black. She was among a handful of Republican leaders who met with the president at the White House today, and she joins us from Nashville, Tennessee.

Chairman Black, thank you very much for talking with us.

So, when this bill went through the other two committees in the House, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, vote was along party lines. All the Republicans voted for it. Is that going to happen on the Budget Committee next week?

REP. DIANE BLACK, R-Tenn.: I think we will probably see a very similar thing. I don’t anticipate that we will have any Democrat votes with us, but we will continue to move along in the process and give them the opportunity to ask the questions and to make that decision whether they would like to vote with us or not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about Republicans? Do you expect any defections?

REP. DIANE BLACK: I anticipate we will have a lot of good conversation, as we have in the Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member.

After 18 hours of very good dialogue and making a lot of good points, I anticipate that we will have all members of our committee supporting this measure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your answer to the conservative complaint or concern at this point that what you have in this legislation, among other things, is what they call a new entitlement program with these refundable tax credits?

REP. DIANE BLACK: Well, this is a way in which we can give people an opportunity. And it’s a very small portion of our population.

You know, most people have their insurance through their employer. But we have got about 4 percent of — 4 to 5 percent of our population who doesn’t have that opportunity. And so this gives them, as those who have insurance through their employer, that is a tax-free benefit that they have.

And for those who aren’t as fortunate to have an employer that provides that insurance, this gives them an opportunity to be able to be in the marketplace. And the important part of this is that they are in the marketplace where they can make a decision about who it is that they would like to get their insurance through.

So we believe this is a fairness issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you know, your conservative colleagues are saying they see it’s a government guarantee and they don’t like it.

REP. DIANE BLACK: Well, they have that opportunity to make those comments and make their points.

And that’s what the whole process is about. That’s the great thing about being in the legislature, is a lot of good discussion and sometimes really heavy conversations. But I think, at the end of the day, that you’re going to see that this bill is going to be successful, and that’s because our health care system right now is failing.

You know what? Here in the state of Tennessee, my great state, we actually have parts of our state that have no insurers left in the marketplace. And so we have got to rescue people. We get calls in our office every day about premiums going up, and co-pays and to a point where people say, I can’t afford it anymore, please help us out.

And so that’s what we’re attempting to do is to be able to rescue people, so they can get patient care or patient-centered health insurance that will be what they want at a price they can afford.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about the complaints on the other side from Democrats and from moderates in your own party who are saying they’re concerned that people who cannot — or can barely afford health coverage right now will not be able to afford it, with the Medicaid changes, changing the way Medicaid is handled by the year 2020.

There is even some conversation about moving that earlier. In your own state of Tennessee, there was a statement today from the hospital association saying they’re concerned about what they say are 230,000 Tennesseans who depend on the kind of coverage in the existing law. How will you deal with that?

REP. DIANE BLACK: Well, first of all, we want to make sure everyone knows that we’re not going to pull the rug out from underneath of them.

But what we do want do is open the marketplace back up again and allow more competition. We have had so many of the insurance companies, and look at the co-ops that were out there. Out of the 23 co-ops, 18 of them are gone, which meant here in my state, when lost that co-op, over 20,000 people that were in that health care policy lost their insurance, because you just can’t afford it.

When it is government-run, and there are so many requirements put on it, it drives the cost of the policy up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about — excuse me.

REP. DIANE BLACK: That’s OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I just want to say, what about those 230,000 Tennesseans who were cited by the hospital association in your state as standing to lose coverage?

REP. DIANE BLACK: Well, we’re — they’re not going to lose coverage. And that’s what I want people to know.

I want people to understand we are not pulling the rug out. We are still going to have Medicaid there for them, but it is going to be changed in the way it’s done where it’s more patient-centered. We’re also going to give states an opportunity to make the decision about how they best can use those dollars.

What’s good for New York and California is not necessarily what’s good for here in the state of Tennessee. And we will allow the governor here in our state to make the decision about how best to spend those dollars that are sent down from Washington for Medicaid and for those that are in that space.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick final question, Chairman Black, and that is the Congressional Budget Office expected to put out its projections on how many people will be covered, how many will lose coverage.

Will your committee look at that information, take it seriously, or,, as the White House is suggesting, that it really doesn’t matter what the Congressional Budget Office says?

REP. DIANE BLACK: Well, we always take what the Congressional Budget Office gives us very seriously, and we will look at that.

It may be that, when we get those scores back, that we do have to tweak some things one way or the other. It probably will not be done in the House Budget Committee. It will be done through another process once it gets into the rules.

But we do take that seriously, and we will be looking at that and making some decisions about whether there needs to be some adjustments.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Chairman Diane Black, chairman of the House Budget Committee, we thank you for talking with us.

REP. DIANE BLACK: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me.

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