Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Friday walked back his remarks that the Affordable Care Act could “in part” contribute to insurance premiums going “through the roof” — comments that Republicans have pounced on.
“The rise in healthcare premiums is market-driven and predates Obamacare,” Schumer said in a statement provided exclusively to TPM. “The fact is, the law is already working to significantly slow that rise, and ensure a higher quality of care to boot.”Schumer’ statement came after an interview that aired Thursday night on an upstate TV station.
“Our insurance department is empowered to protect families and we’re going to watch them like a hawk to make sure they do. Because if they don’t, these rates could go through the roof,” Schumer told a reporter from News10NBC late Thursday.
Asked by the reporter if it’s because of Obamacare, Schumer responded: “It’s in part because of Obamacare but health care costs have been going up by double digits for years and years and years. The good news is in this bill there’s a way to stop it.”
Schumer’s spokesman Brian Fallon said the senator didn’t intend to blame Obamacare for a potential rise in health insurance premiums.
“That is not what he meant,” Fallon told TPM.
Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, is a strong Obamacare supporter who is usually very media-savvy. The remark comes not long after another politically problematic comment about Obamacare, by Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), who warned that implementation of the health care law could prove to be a “train wreck.”
Schumer’s comment was quickly picked up by national news outlets Friday and touted by conservatives and GOP operatives, who are ratcheting up warnings that implementation of the law will bring about dire consequences for the health care system.
The Affordable Care Act contains a variety of mechanisms aimed at lowering health care costs over time, such as improving the insurance risk pool by including young and healthy people, and paying Medicare providers on the basis of quality of outcomes rather than quantity of care.
Watch Schumer’s remarks to the local New York TV reporter that caused the stir: