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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins on ABC’s This Week today with host George Stephanopoulos to discuss health care.
A transcript of the interview follows:
May 7, 2017
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump is up and tweeting this morning. Just out a few moments ago, he said, "Republican senators will not let the American people down. Obamacare premiums and deductibles are way up. It was a lie and it is dead."
We are joined now by one of those Republican senators, Senator Susan Collins from Maine. Senator, thank you for joining us this morning. We just heard the president right there. You heard Speaker Ryan as well.
But you had serious concerns. You were against the original House bill. Is it fair to say you're against the amended one?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I have a lot of concerns. It's difficult to assess the new House bill because we still don't have a CBO analysis of the impact on coverage and costs. And those are key questions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are the key questions. I mean, we heard Dr. Gawande weigh in on that, as well. But you heard Speaker Ryan right there. He says he's going to take care of those older, rural Americans who don't have the tax credits, who are going to lose their subsidies under Obamacare. He cited your state of Maine several times.
COLLINS: Well, first of all, one of the problems with the House bill is that the tax credits are not adjusted for income or geographic region. That really hurts a state like Maine, where we have an older population living in largely more expensive, rural areas, as far as health care is concerned.
I've heard a lot of talk about the Maine high-risk pool. And indeed, it was a success in Maine for the 18 months or so in which it operated before the passage of the ACA and it can be part of the solution. But in Maine, we had definite revenue streams supporting the high-risk pool, and that is why it worked. In the House bill, it's really up to the states to come up with whatever option they wish.
So that could work and it could be part of a solution. But the devil really is in the details.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you agree with Speaker Ryan and President Trump who are saying people with preeexisting conditions are going have the same coverage they have now, even better, Speaker Ryan said, in some cases, letters of protection, than under Obamacare?
COLLINS: I think that's unlikely, but so much discretion is given to the states without any guardrails. The difference between that approach and the approach in the bill that Senator Cassidy and I have introduced is we keep the ACA safeguards, the consumer protections, for people with preexisting conditions.
It's true that under the House bill that a state that gets a waiver would still have to provide coverage to people with preexisting conditions, but that coverage might well be unaffordable. And if the coverage is unaffordable, that doesn't do any good for a child who has juvenile diabetes and is going have that her entire life. And once she's no longer on her parents' policy, that's going to create problems in some states.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the House bill were before you today, would you be a yes?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, the House bill is not going to come before us. The Senate is starting from scratch. We're going to draft our own bill, and I'm convinced that we're going to take the time to do it right.
Speaker Ryan today said that he hoped that the Senate would improve the House bill. I think we will do so and that we will come up with a whole new fresh approach that solves the legitimate flaws that do exist with the ACA, where we’ve seen, in some markets, insurers fleeing so people won't be able to buy subsidized insurance, but it will also keep some of the benefits of the ACA.
My goal is to actually expand coverage for those 28 million Americans who still lack coverage today despite the ACA.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of people are struck by the working group that's been put together in the Senate to deal with healthcare. I'm going to put the picture up right there. There you see it right there -- 13 men. Not a single woman. Cecile Richards from Planned Parenthood tweeted about that. "When women aren't at the table, we're on the menu." Senator Patty Murray, Democratic senator of course: "It matters to have women at the table and it matters when they aren't."
Why aren't you on that working group?
COLLINS: Well, the leaders obviously chose the people they want, but I'm working hard with Senator Cassidy, with our co-sponsors--Senator Mike Rounds, Shelley Moore Capito, Johnny Isakson--We're reaching out to moderate Democrats.
I would like to see us put together a bipartisan group to solve this problem, of Democrats who acknowledge that there are problems with the current law, that it is not working well in several states, and Republicans who also want to make sure that we're not reducing coverage and we're giving flexibility.
There's an issue that no one is talking about in Washington that's so critical. And that is, if we're going reduce the cost of health insurance, we have to take steps to reduce the costs of health care. And no one's talking about that. Senator Cassidy and I have in our bill a transparency section so that you would actually know what you're paying, and I think that would help consumers make better choices.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, can you support a final bill that denies Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood?
COLLINS: That is an important issue to me, because I don't think that low-income women should be denied their choice of health care providers, for family planning, cancer screenings, for well women care. It's not the only issue in this huge bill, but I certainly think it's not fair and it is a mistake to defund Planned Parenthood. It's one of many issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.
COLLINS: Thank you, George.