Pennsylvania Republican Says He's Concerned About Cost-Sharing Reductions Ending
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Congressman Charlie Dent is a Pennsylvania Republican who's announced that he is not seeking re-election. He sits on the House Appropriations Committee and joins us now. Welcome to the program.
CHARLIE DENT: Great to be with you, and thank you for having me on the show.
SIEGEL: You've often been critical of President Trump. His administration says those cost-sharing reduction payments are unlawful. Is he right about that?
DENT: Well, they may be unlawful, but at the same time it's important that we continue those cost-sharing reduction payments to people who are currently being subsidized, who are in the exchanges. I am concerned that, you know, in Pennsylvania about 57 percent of Pennsylvania's enrollees who are currently in the marketplace or the exchange are receiving those cost-sharing reduction payments. Without those payments, many of them will not be able to afford their premiums.
SIEGEL: To remedy that concern, if Congress were to try to do something, given its record of failure on health care this year, I mean, what chance would you give for both houses passing legislation that would be effective and would address the president's action?
DENT: Well, the House actually does have a plan to address the cost-sharing reduction payments. I'm part of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, and we put together a five-point plan that brings the cost-sharing reduction payments under the appropriations process, guaranteeing certainty to those payments.
We also create a stabilization fund for the individual marketplace. We also provide relief to many small businesses from the employer mandate, and also restore the notion of a 40-hour work week rather than the 30-hour standard imposed by the health care law or Obamacare. And we also repeal the medical device tax. So we have a plan to do this. And it's bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats alike. It's consistent with what I believe Senator Alexander and Murray are working on.
SIEGEL: Well, is Speaker Paul Ryan prepared to let that bill go to the floor? And do you think it would actually pass?
DENT: Well, I believe that bill would pass if it were to come to the floor. Whether or not the House leadership is prepared to allow a vote is another question to which I do not have an answer today. But I believe this is the right approach. Again, I don't agree with the president's action today. But if his action is intended to motivate Congress to move forward on an incremental change, then I say, let's do it.
SIEGEL: But what do you say to Republican leaders in Congress who say, look; if we fail one more time, if yet again we try to take up a relatively big bill addressing health care and we can't do it, we look disastrous. We look stupid to the entire country.
DENT: Well, that's true. But I'm not advocating that we take on a big, comprehensive reform bill. What I'm advocating is that we take on an incremental measure like I described that would do those few things.
SIEGEL: During the past several months, the president has said a couple of times that as an alternative to passing a health care bill we could just let Obamacare collapse and point to the Democrats and say, you didn't do anything. Can Democrats be blamed for this at this point? Or do Republicans own health care at this stage?
DENT: Well, I believe at this stage - and that's why I disagree with the president - if people lose their cost-sharing reduction payments, their subsidies, it's going to be pretty hard to blame a former president, Barack Obama, for that. That, you know, we Republicans control the House and the Senate and the White House. That if there are problems we will likely own them. I mean, it's pretty hard to say that, you know, the former president's going to be able to somehow accept all the blame. He's out of the game right now.
SIEGEL: But isn't President Trump doing exactly what he promised to do in last year's election and what the Republican Party has been promising to do for four elections?
DENT: Well, the president promised a lot of things in the election. And all I can say is that what I've been advocating all along is that parts of the health care law, Obamacare, parts of it do need to be repealed. Parts of it need to be replaced. Parts of it need to be repaired, reformed and overhauled. And parts of it need to be retained. That's always been my view on this thing, particularly since 2013. That's how we should be dealing with the health care law. And what I've advocated earlier on this program was simply to make an incremental change that would provide certainty and stability to the individual market and to the cost-sharing reduction subsidies.
SIEGEL: Well, Congressman Dent, thanks for talking with us about it once again.
DENT: Hey, thank you. Great to be with you, and have a great weekend.
SIEGEL: That's Congressman Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.