In an interview on CNN's New Day Tuesday, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz was pressed by co-host Alisyn Camerota about the fear that low-income Americans will be uninsured under the just-released Republican replacement to ObamaCare.
"We campaigned on this, assured the American people if you put Republicans in charge we would fix what is in a death spiral. The premiums are going up. I think 25% on average across the board," the Republican congressman said. "In Arizona some of them are as close as 100%. Deductibles have gone up. Choice has gone down, a third. Almost one-third of the counties in this country have only one choice. So, we've got to save health care in this country for the American people and they elected us to solve and tackle difficult problems."
Camerota responded and cited the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation's criticism of the replacement proposal: "With Medicaid reductions and smaller tax credits, this bill would clearly result in fewer people insured than under the Affordable Care Act. The House GOP proposal seeks to reduce what the federal government spends on health care, inevitably means more people uninsured.” Which prompted Camerota to ask, "Does that worry you?"
In response to Chaffetz replying that the replacement would give control of healthcare to states and enable Americans more chocies, Camerota asked, "What if it leaves lower income Americans uninsured?"
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From there, Camerota kept pressing the Utah Republican about the possibility of low-income Americans not being insured. "But access for lower income Americans doesn’t equal coverage," she added.
Here is the March 7th exchange:
7:08:12 AM – 7:16:32 AM
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Joining us now, Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thanks for being here in studio.
UTAH REP. JASON CHAFFETZ: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. Let's start with the President's accusations of wiretapping. Do you believe that President Obama illegally wiretapped President Trump?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we don't know. The President asked for an investigation and he's going to get it. That will be led by the house intelligence committee. We'll play a supporting role in the oversight government and reform committee. I'm not going to presuppose the conclusion of this. We'll look at the evidence.
CAMEROTA: Have you seen any evidence?
CHAFFETZ: We just are starting that process and we'll look closely at it.
CAMEROTA: Does it require an investigation? Can you as Chairman of the Oversight House Committee pick up the phone and call the FBI, Department of Justice and say, “Hey, was there a FISA warrant for this?”
CHAFFETZ: I wish it was that easy. I did contact Director Comey over the weekend and he did not call me back. I hear these reports of what he believes. I find them with no credibility.
CAMEROTA: This is interesting. You called him.
CHAFFETZ: I texted him.
CAMEROTA: To find out if he is, in fact, incredulous?
CHAFFETZ: I said please call me if you can. I would like to know that.
CAMEROTA: You got no response?
CHAFFETZ: No response. But that's not atypical. There's not out of the ordinary. Sometimes he calls me back, sometimes he doesn't. He has been very accessible to members of congress. He was just up on capitol hill talking to the house intelligence committee. They're in the best position. They will lead out on this. We can support them in that effort.
CAMEROTA: Is there a way to circumvent an entire committee investigation? Can the President, for instance, pick up the phone and call the Department of Justice and say was there a FISA warrant issued when I was running my campaign?
CHAFFETZ: We have the whole spectrum here, right? The Democrats flailing, saying Russian ties are in collusion with the trump campaign. Give us some evidence. I don't see any evidence on that. And on other end of the spectrum --
CAMEROTA: What about the Michael Flynn conversations? What about the Paul Manafort having resigned? Isn't that evidence?
CHAFFETZ: The House Intelligence Committee will lead out on that. It's flimsy at best. There's incidental contact. But to make that leap and say that there was some degree of collusion, we haven't seen anything yet that would lead you to believe, yes, indeed, other than incidental contact, that there was some sort of collusion. On the other end of the spectrum, to be fair, what President Trump has said, we're at the very beginning of that. That happened, I think, on Saturday. We want to see evidence of that. Anybody in the government can come forward particularly to House Intelligence but also the Oversight Government Reform Committee and provide us that evidence. We would like to see it.
CAMEROTA: How often do you wake up in the morning and read a President Trump tweet and go “uh-oh?”
CHAFFETZ: You have to get up kind of early. Well, it is interesting. It's a different and new dynamic. He chooses how he wants to communicate. But he does certainly make it interesting, yes.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but, I mean, as the Chairman of the Oversight Committee then there has to be action. Do you think --
CHAFFETZ: Not on everything. Not on everything. The President said that he thought there was widespread, you know, voter fraud. I don't see any evidence of that. We're not doing an investigation into that. Sometimes it is, sometimes --
CAMEROTA: I thought there was an investigation into voter fraud. You're not doing that?
CHAFFETZ: I'm not doing that. I haven't seen any evidence of that. The federal government has 2 million plus employees. We have 70. We have to judiciously look at everything we have to pick and choose.
CAMEROTA: You've seen no evidence of the voter fraud or no evidence that President Obama illegally wiretapped President Trump. Why investigate that one?
CHAFFETZ: The President is calling for that. I talked with Devin Nunes. They're leading out on that and we're going to look into it.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that President Obama was illegally wiretapping?
CHAFFETZ: I've learned long enough that you don't presuppose the outcome. When you look around the corner, sometimes you find something you didn't expect to find. So I think it's a legitimate question. The president is emphatic about it. We're going to look at it and try to figure it out.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.
CAMEROTA: Do you like what you've seen?
CHAFFETZ: I do like what I see. We campaigned on this, assured the American people if you put Republicans in charge we would fix what is in a death spiral. The premiums are going up. I think 25% on average across the board. In Arizona some of them are as close as 100%. Deductibles have gone up. Choice has gone down, a third. Almost one-third of the counties in this country have only one choice. So, we've got to save health care in this country for the American people and they elected us to solve and tackle difficult problems.
CAMEROTA: Some of the experts who looked at the Republican replacement plan see problems with it. Here is the Kaiser Foundation, what they say about it yesterday. “With Medicaid reductions and smaller tax credits, this bill would clearly result in fewer people insured than under the affordable care act. The House GOP proposal seeks to reduce what the federal government spends on health care, inevitably means more people uninsured.” Does that worry you?
CHAFFETZ: We're always worried. We want to make sure that people have access to the quality health care they want. This does push it more out of Washington, D.C. And back to the American people. It does align financial incentives, particularly through the health asks accounts. It does limit and cap what we're doing with the states but gives them more flexibility, which is what we heard the governors who were in town literally last week, they told us we want more flexibility. There's a lot to like about this. And do you know what I really like about it? We're going to do it in an open and transparent way, unlike what the Democrats did with the Affordable Care Act where they slammed it through in less than 24 hours, it's going to go through a mark-up. You've got two committees of jurisdiction that will offer amendments and we'll have this debate over the next several weeks.
CAMEROTA: What if it leaves lower income Americans uninsured?
CHAFFETZ: We want them to be able to provide, have a method to get access to it. There are things we like, for instance, dealing with pre-existing conditions, allowing people allowing up to age 26 -- I think there's a lot of good things.
CAMEROTA: But access for lower income Americans doesn’t equal coverage.
CHAFFETZ: Well, we're getting rid of the individual mandate. We're getting rid of those things that people said they don't want. And you know what? Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice so rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars in that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make these decisions themselves.
CAMEROTA: So, in other words, for lower income Americans, you're saying this will require some sacrifice on their part?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we’ve got to be able to lower the cost of health care. One of the things we're concerned about is health care inflation is consuming the American budget, both in the families and at the federal government. We have to be able to drive those cost curves down and provide good, quality access. We do think that with more choice, that you will get a better product at a lower price. And that will be good for everybody on the entire spectrum of income.
CAMEROTA: But you're not willing to say that more people won't become uninsured?
CHAFFETZ: We lost, I think it was, 4.7 million people or so, actually lost the doctor that they had last year. The access is way down. When the cost and deductibles go up, you're not serving the American people well. We have heard definitively that people know that this is not working. So, we're going to try something different. We do think we can expand the coverage so that people have access to a quality health care product that they want.
CAMEROTA: More access, but possibly less coverage? That might be the byproduct?
CHAFFETZ: Well, yes. I think that's fair. But we're just now consuming this. So, more of the analysis has to happen. That's premature. We just saw the bill as of yesterday. We're just starting to consume it. We will have to look at how that analysis moves forward.
CAMEROTA: Fair enough. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, thanks for being here.
CHAFFETZ: Thanks for having me.