NEW YORK Feb 27 President Donald Trump sought
on Monday to bring the nation's largest insurance companies on
board with his plans to overhaul Obamacare, saying their help
was needed to deliver a smooth transition to the Republicans'
"We must work together to save Americans from Obamacare –
you people know that and everyone knows that - to create more
competition and to bring down prices substantially," Trump told
insurers at a meeting at the White House.
The gathering took place a day before Trump was to deliver a
major policy speech to the U.S. Congress. In attendance at the
meeting were insurers who participate in the Obamacare health
insurance exchanges as well as some that have pulled most or all
of their Obamacare individual insurance offerings.
The president needs insurers to participate in the
individual insurance market to keep up competition and keep
costs in check.
The speech to Congress is a chance for Trump to elaborate on
his healthcare policy, one of his top domestic priorities.
Trump and Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace the
Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature
piece of domestic policy but have not released details yet.
Trump told the insurers that his changes would include
expanded healthcare savings accounts, which are tax-free savings
accounts typically used with high-deductible insurance plans,
and the sale of health plans across state lines. He also said
that he wanted states to have more flexibility but did not
Trump previously discussed these ideas on the campaign
trail. It is unclear how they would be implemented, or what
changes he might make to Medicaid expansion, another key
component of the Obamacare law.
Trump told insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc
, Anthem Inc. and Aetna Inc., that he
was directing Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to
work with them "to ensure a smooth transition to the new plan."
The administration recently gave the insurers one of their
biggest requests and proposed a rule that would tighten
eligibility verification for subsidized plans and allow them to
seek unpaid premiums.
Trump is also seeking support from the nation's governors
for changes. The Obamacare law, which extended health insurance
to 20 million Americans, has been popular in many states, even
those controlled by Republicans. But it has also been criticized
for its steep premium increases.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said on Monday that many
conversations during this weekend's meeting of the National
Governors Association centered on Medicaid, the massive
government health insurance program for the poor, and how to
ensure those who received coverage under the Medicaid expansion
could maintain coverage.
Trump said on Monday that he wanted to bring Democrats on
board with the plan as well.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in an
interview Monday with CNN that it would be "disastrous" for
Republicans to repeal Obamacare without a proper replacement.
"The political rhetoric of the campaign has hit the reality
of governing. This is complex. You cannot take healthcare away
from 18 million people. What are they going to do?" he said.
(Reporting by Caroline Humer and Richard Cowan, Yasmeen
Abutaleb, Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland in Washington D.C.;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)