In two prime-time interviews Wednesday night, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gave strikingly different answers about tax provisions in the American Health Care Act, the Republican measure intended to replace Obamacare.
Trump suggested that the provisions could be negotiated away — something the Republican-controlled Congress has shown no signs of doing — while Price defended a possible tax cut for health-insurance executives.
In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson — who had previously coaxed a non-answer from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) about the AHCA’s tax cut for people making more than $250,000 — the president declined to defend the policy.
“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 counties that voted for Clinton,” Carlson said.
“Well, I know,” Trump said. “It’s very preliminary.”
“It seems like this isn’t consistent with the message of the last election,” Carlson said.
“A lot of things aren’t consistent,” Trump said. “But these are going to be negotiated. We’re going to go to the Senate. We’re going to see what happens in the Senate.”
That interview ran at the same time as a CNN-hosted town hall with Price, who at first seemed surprised to hear that the bill included a tax cut for health-insurance executives.
“In your bill, there is a tax break for health-care company executives who make over $500,000 a year,” said CNN’s Dana Bash. “Why do health-care CEOs need a tax break?”
“Yeah, I don’t think it stipulates that it’s health-care executives,” Price said. “I think it’s the level of income. If it’s health-care executives, then I’ll take a peek at it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“It is,” Bash said. “I mean, it’s in there. It talks about — I have it right here.”
Price quickly defended the policy. “I think that the previous administration singled out health-care executives,” he said. “You’re absolutely right. And what they said is health-care executives ought to be punished.”
“Well, not punished,” Bash said. “Obamacare had a limitation for certain health-insurance providers that exceeds $500,000 paid to an officer, director or an employee. That limitation in your bill goes away, and it effectively means a tax cut for these people.”
Price returned to his defense of the cut. “You had the government before, saying to a certain sector of society, a certain individual, you can’t make what that company is willing to pay you for your services,” he said. “That doesn’t sound like America to me. What we’re saying is that we ought not single out certain individuals in this nation and have the federal government have the power to be able to say you’re going to be treated differently than that individual, even though you make the same amount of money.”