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Rep. Carter Says He'll Consider Senate's Revisions To Health Care Plan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in Washington, D.C., where we are finding out this hour about a Republican health care bill as drafted in the Senate. Republican leaders have been drafting it in secret. Now they've released it, and they hope to vote as soon as possible. They're moving this way because every vote counts. They have none to spare - don't want debate that would drive votes away. But the secrecy made at least one Republican, Ron Johnson, tell CNN he cannot support it without time to read.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON JOHNSON: What I've told leadership, very clearly, is I'm going to need time and my constituents are going to need time to evaluate exactly how this is going to affect them. So I personally think that holding a vote on this next week would definitely be rushed. I can't imagine, quite honestly, that I'd have the information to evaluate and justify a yes vote within just a week.

INSKEEP: We are having a look at the bill. And we'll have analysis later this hour and in days to come. A little bit earlier this morning, we spoke with a congressman who voted for the House version of the health care bill, Georgia Republican Congressman Buddy Carter. Welcome back to the program, sir.

BUDDY CARTER: Well, thank you.

INSKEEP: So we don't know what the Senate's going to do. We do know what President Trump has said he wants. He urged a more generous bill than the one you voted for, one with heart, according to the president, and presumably bigger subsidies for people who would have smaller subsidies under your bill. Can you support that?

CARTER: Well, certainly, I will consider it. And certainly, I - we knew all along that there were going to be changes made to it when it went over to the Senate. That's part of the process. So you know, it really depends on the changes. I haven't had a chance to read the bill. Obviously, it's not finalized yet. It's not over here, but I will tell you that I will be looking at it with an open mind. And there is some urgency to this matter. We know that we've got to do something. I go home so often, and people ask me, are you going to do something? Are you going to do something? Well, we've got to do something. Just look at what happened yesterday in Indiana and Wisconsin when Anthem announced that they were pulling out of the exchange. I mean, this forces us - it forces our hand even more.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm glad you bring this up, Congressman, because there's been a lot of discussion on our air about the fact that a lot of health insurance companies have pulled out of these state exchanges. Many places have only one insurer to choose from. There's fear of zero insurers in some places. But as has also been noted, Republicans have made specific efforts to cause this to happen, for example, a provision sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida that targeted financing to help steady the insurance markets. If it's a problem that the markets are getting worse, why did you do that?

CARTER: Well, I can't speak on behalf of Senator Rubio. I don't know why he did that. But...

INSKEEP: But it passed both houses of Congress, right?

CARTER: Well, I suspect you're correct. But the point remains that Obamacare is imploding. Obamacare is failing under its own weight. We know we've got to do something. The Affordable Care Act has been a failure, and we've got to get health care back on track here. We've got to get insurance coverage for these people. Otherwise, we're going to really be in a mess in this country.

INSKEEP: Is it bad enough that a bill has to pass the Senate in the next week, do you think?

CARTER: I'm not sure that it's that imminent. But at the same time, we need to get our work done. I'm not sure that, you know, debating this further - and look, we've been talking about this for the six months that we've been in session here. And yes, the Senate is just now getting to it. But at the same time, they've had six months to prepare for this. There's no excuse for us to beleaguer this and to carry it on even further.

INSKEEP: You know, you raised one other thing I want to follow up on, Congressman Carter. You say you want to see what the Senate bill is. You want to see what it looks like. You're reserving judgment, which is totally fair and also raises a very real point. President Trump says, I want a more generous bill with more generous subsidies. You're in a position of not wanting to spend too much on health insurance. Could the Senate bill lose your vote if it becomes too generous, so to speak?

CARTER: Well, it certainly could. To me, one of the most important aspects of this is Medicaid reform. We need to make Medicaid better. Medicaid is a safety-net program. It was intended for the aged, the blind, the disabled, for mothers and children. It was not intended for able-bodied adults, and that's going to be very important to me.

INSKEEP: Making sure that the Medicaid expansion is rolled back or that Medicaid is reshaped - that's important to you?

CARTER: Exactly - and to make it even better because when we roll it back and we make it truly for those who do need it, then it'll be a much better program.

INSKEEP: OK. Congressman Carter, always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much, sir.

CARTER: Thank you, sir.

INSKEEP: That is Congressman Buddy Carter of Georgia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.