Alice Ollstein contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that President Donald Trump does not support a bipartisan deal to stabilize Obamacare’s individual market, reversing the White House’s stance once again.
But as Sanders was laying out the White House’s position, one of the co-authors of the deal insisted to reporters on the Hill that Trump was not opposed to it.
The deal, championed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), would fund Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) for two years. Trump recently refused to authorize the payments to insurance companies, which are used to lower the cost of insurance for low- and middle-income people purchasing insurance on Obamacare’s individual market.
The deal would also restore funding for Obamacare outreach, in addition to making concessions to conservatives like waiving some regulations and making skimpier plans available on the individual market.
“Is it correct then to say that President Trump does not support this deal in its current form?” a reporter asked Sanders Wednesday.
“Correct,” she said.
But earlier in the press briefing Wednesday, Sanders called the deal “a good step.”
“We want something that doesn’t just bail out the insurance companies but actually provides relief for all Americans,” she said. “And this bill doesn’t address that fact so we want to make sure that that’s taken care of.”
“We think this is a step — a good step in the right direction,” she continued. “This President certainly supports Republicans and Democrats coming to work together, but it’s not a full approach and we need something to go a little bit further to get on board.”
One reporter asked her to be more specific.
“Some of the things that the President has stated before,” she replied. “He wants to lower premiums, he wants to provide greater flexibility, he wants to drive competition. He likes the idea of block grants to states. Those are a lot of the the ideas that he’d like to see in a health care plan.”
Trump himself has come out on both sides of the deal. After refusing to pay for CSRs, throwing insurance markets into a panic, he called Alexander and Murray’s deal to re-fund them “a very good solution” during a joint press conference with the Greek prime minister Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he reversed course again.
I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
But, speaking to reporters as Sanders said Trump didn’t support the current deal, Alexander said that “no,” he didn’t interpret Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning as his coming out against the bill.
“The President literally called me a week ago Saturday and asked me to do this,” he said. “And then we talked again last Saturday about it, and then he called me again this morning. He’s made all those calls.”
“I don’t expect him to support an agreement he hasn’t read,” he continued, adding: “All this is, is a proposal by Sen. Murray and me that we think makes sense for the American people.”
This post has been updated.