'This Week' Transcript 3-19-17: Tom Price, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Joaquin Castro, and Rep. Will Hurd

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on March 19, 2017 and it will be updated.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: And we are joined now by the president’s appointment in healthcare, the secretary of health and human services, Dr. Tom Price.

Dr. Price, thanks for joining us this morning.

TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, George. Good to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So last week you said that no one would be worse off financially under President Trump’s plan. Since then we’ve seen the CBO report saying that up to 24 million people over time won’t be able to afford their health insurance. And they say it’s going to be a real double whammy on older, lower-income Americans. They’re going to be charged higher premiums, get less in tax credits than they do now in subsidies.

So do you stand by that claim?

PRICE: I do, as a matter of fact, because what the CBO looked at and what they were charged with looking at is just one portion of the plan. The overall plan is not just this piece of legislation before Congress right now, which I think is an integral part, an important step in all of this. But it’s the second phase of all of this, which is ongoing as we speak, but it includes all of the administrative changes that need to be put in place. And then a third phase which also is ongoing as we speak, which are multiple other pieces of legislation, that round out the plan and make it so that it fulfills the president’s promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare and putting in place a patient-centered system where we get patients and families and doctors making medical decisions and not Washington.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can see that under this plan now, the plan that the House is expected to vote on this week, some Americans will be worse off?

PRICE: Well, that’s not the plan. That is part of the plan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s what they’ll be voting on.


PRICE: That’s what people are focusing on. You have to put in the place the entire plan, and this is part of that plan, and it’s an important part, because what it does is repeal Obamacare, repeal the taxes of Obamacare. It provides greater flexibility to the states in a fundamental way to make it so that the Medicaid system can actually work for patients in the Medicaid system. It makes it so that every single American will have the financial feasibility to gain access to the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not that government forces them to buy.

So it’s an important start, an important part. It’s a first step in this process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president seemed to concede this week in that interview with Tucker Carlson that some of his voters won’t do as well as Hillary Clinton voters under this plan. Let’s take a look.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: A Bloomberg analysis showed that counties that voted for you, middle class and working class counties, would do far less well under this bill than the counties --


CARLSON: -- that voted for Hillary, more affluent counties.


CARLSON: It seems like -- (INAUDIBLE) consistent with the message of the last election.

TRUMPRICE: No, a lot of things aren’t consistent. But these are going to be negotiated.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president went on to say that he won’t sign a bill that doesn’t take care of his people. So how does he plan to address that imbalance on the tax side?

PRICE: Well, again, it’s part of an entire plan. The administrative changes that we’re able to put in place, we’ve already begun to make it so that the insurance companies would talk to multiple insurers. You know, George, there are one-third of the counties in this nation that only have one issuer in insurance on the exchange. Five states only have one issuer. What that means is that people don’t have a choice at all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s not going to affect the tax benefits, that’s what the president was talking about right there.

PRICE: Yes, but what that means is that people aren’t going to be able to get the care that they need. And this isn’t about Washington politics; this about people’s health care, and that’s where it’s important to keep the focus. And that’s why the administrative changes that we’ve already begun will -- we’ve had insurers tell us not only will we stay in the market, but we’ll get back into the market. And that’s what we need: choices for patients, competition, to drive down costs so that folks have greater opportunity again to get the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and their families.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, you’ve even got Republican Senators like Bill Cassidy and John Thune who think it’s going to be hard for older Americans to afford insurance under the House plan right now. They say you’re going to have to beef up those tax credits and maybe slow down the changes in Medicaid.

PRICE: And that may be the case, and that’s why, as it works through this legislative process, we’re looking at it and working with our legislative colleagues, to make certain that we’ve got the kind of plan that actually works for people in the real world. Something that the previous administration didn’t do.

So if it needs more beefing up, as you say, for folks who are low income, at the -- between 50 and 64 years of age, that’s something that we’ve talked about, something that we’ve entertained, and that may happen throughout the process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not the direction it’s going in, in the House, right now. The president with those members of the Republican Study (ph) Committee this week; it appears that they’ve agreed to put some kind of a work requirement in for Medicaid. It allows states to block grant Medicaid as well.

Is that enough to get a majority in the House or are going to need to do more to -- to bring along members of the House Freedom Caucus, those conservatives, as well?

PRICE: Well, we’ve talked to some many folks in the House of Representatives to try to see what their discomfort level is, if they have any, with this piece of legislation. Again, understanding that it’s part of the overall plan.

The work requirements are important. They’re something that is restorative to people’s self-worth, self -- sense of themselves, about working when they’re able to. We believe it’s important for folks to -- to have a job, that they contribute not just to society but they contribute to their own -- own well-being.

To provide states greater flexibility in the Medicaid population, as I mentioned, whether it’s a per capita cap or a block grant. What that means to people in the real world is that states are going to be able to be the ones that are fashioning their Medicaid program for their vulnerable population, so it’s much more responsive. Not a one-size-fits-all from Washington program.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the House Freedom Caucus is still against the bill right now, and some of them are saying you’re going to have to speed up those Medicaid changes, even more, maybe do away with some of the mandates. Are those changes on the table right now?

PRICE: Well, as the president -- as you heard the president say, he’s been talking with a lot of the House members, and certainly members of the Senate as well, working -- we’re working through this process.

This is what tough legislation looks like, so it’s not unusual to have this give-and-take and this back-and-forth. I’m confident that as we move forward, we’ll be able to move all portions of the plan. This reconciliation bill that’s moving through Congress right now, certainly the administrative changes that we believe are important. You remember all of the regulations that the previous administration put in place? Hundreds of them. Literally thousands of guidance letters. Many of them were harmful to patients and drove up the costs of health coverage and drove people out of the ability to care for patients in the real world.

We’re going to look at every single one of them and make certain we do right thing --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator Price --

PRICE: -- and then that third bucket, which is the legislation that will be coming forth to make certain that the insurance changes are ones that will actually work for people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but you’ll need -- you’ll need Democratic votes for that, that third budget -- that third bucket. But in the meantime, what (INAUDIBLE) in something a squeeze play right here? The changes you’re making to get conservatives in the House -- speeding up the changes in Medicaid -- are going to cause even more concerns with those senators in the Midwest, in rural areas, who are saying that --- that their states are relying on the Medicaid expansion. So everything you do to get votes in the House is going to cost you votes in the Senate, isn’t it?

PRICE: Well, it’s a fine needle that needs to be thread, there’s no doubt about it. But you mentioned working with Democrats on that -- on that third bucket, and we sure hope so. We’ve been reaching out to individuals in both the House and the Senate on the other side of aisle and look forward to their ideas and hopefully their input and their support as we move forward. They know that the current law doesn’t work. They know that premiums are going up. They know that deductibles are skyrocketing. They know that a lot of people have health coverage but no health care because they can’t afford the deductibles.

So we’re asking men and women of goodwill in the legislature, in the legislative branch, to come forward and work with us to solve the challenges that the American people see in their health care system, again so we get a health care system that works for them. Not government, but that works for people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats don’t seem very willing right now. Senator Rand Paul is coming right up. He says you should just do a clean repeal like you did in 2015 and then have a wide-open debate on how to replace Obamacare. What’s wrong with that proposal?

PRICE: Because that -- what that does is place vulnerable people at risk, and that’s not something that the president’s willing to do, it’s not something that he said he would do. Certainly what he has said is that repeal and replace need to occur essentially at the same time, concurrently, and that’s what we’re going -- that’s what we’re moving forward with in this first phase.

Again, the second phase, the administrative changes; the third phase, the other pieces of legislation -- they’re being worked on literally as we speak. And if you look at the plan in its entirety, I think that Senator Paul would have to admit that it includes the vast majority of the kinds of things that he and others have been talking about as being important: to have a health care financing and delivery system that works for patients.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, on another subject, Pro Publicia reported this week that Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, before he was fired, was said to have been investigating your stock trades when you were a member of Congress. Have you and your lawyers gotten any indication that you’re the subject or target of an investigation?

PRICE: No, I have -- know nothing about that whatsoever.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for clearing it up. Dr. Price, thanks for joining us today.

PRICE: Thank you.

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