Sen. Wicker: Trump believes health care bill can get 50 votes

JUDY WOODRUFF: And Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi was also at the White House today.

I started by asking him if the president's engagement adds more pressure on Republicans.

SEN. ROGER WICKER, R-Miss.: Well, I guess there is some pressure on some of the people who are sort of still doubtful about this.

I don't feel the pressure, because I have been a yes vote for quite some time. But let me tell you, there are two schools of thought on moving forward. The majority leader, Senator McConnell, would like to get to a vote on the motion to proceed and see where people are. And, if we win, great, we proceed to the bill. If not, at least people have voted, and we know what the target is, if we lose by two or three votes.

The president, on the other hand, really thinks that, over the next few days, we can get 50 votes to yes. And he was all about today getting into the details of what's keeping various members from being able to say 100 percent that they can support this legislation and deciding what levers to pull to get the bill to a place where 50 of us can say yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the reason I'm asking about pressure is because, a couple of weeks ago, when Senator Dean Heller of Nevada indicated he was having problems with the legislation, there was a political action group supporting the president that ran ads against him.

Is that the kind of …

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. ROGER WICKER: And I think that was generally considered to be bad form and counterproductive among people in the Republican Conference.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you a little bit about the substance of this.

As you know, a lot of discussion about what this bill would mean for coverage, including Medicaid. The vice president of your home state — a Mississippi state hospital association quoted this week as saying they are opposed to anything that increases the number of uninsured in Mississippi.

SEN. ROGER WICKER: Well, for one thing, I don't think it would increase the number of uninsured.

These changes are based on projections of people that will be covered, if the estimates are correct. So, I would just challenge that.

But let me also say — and I don't mean to be critical, or I don't mean this to be taken wrong — but there's never been a provider who came to us and said, we need you to slow the growth rate of these entitlement programs.

I mean, that's just not something that they're going to say. But the fact is we can make health care better for Mississippians, and we can make coverage better for the average American, while, at the same time, saving a system that is not sustainable for future generations. And we can do that.

And, at the end of the day, I think people in the health care business, in the hospital business in future years will say, you have saved the system and good for you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when I read that there are almost half-a-million children in Mississippi who depend on Medicaid, are you saying they don't have anything to worry about?

SEN. ROGER WICKER: I think — well, for one thing, we are not a Medicaid expansion state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

SEN. ROGER WICKER: Our state didn't choose to do that. And so it's completely inaccurate to say that these 500,000 children are going to lose their coverage. They're not.

As a matter of fact, there will be a tradition — I mean, there will be a transition — I'm sorry — and states that expanded Medicaid will have a seven-year period and there will be an extra incentive for those states who chose not to do that.

But those 500,000 children that you talk about are not going to have their coverage threatened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

Senator Roger Wicker joining us from the Capitol, we thank you.

SEN. ROGER WICKER: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And a quick postscript: We don't know yet what the latest revisions to the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will include, but, for the record, the Congressional Budget Office already estimated what would happen with the first version of the bill.

It concluded there would be 15 million fewer Medicaid enrollees in a decade than projected under current law. It also said that, over the long haul, states would likely have to either spend more money, cut payments, eliminate services or limit who's eligible for Medicaid. It is not clear how many children would be affected.

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