White House Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price hosted a town hall on CNN Wednesday night to trumpet the American Health Care Act, Republicans’ proposed replacement for Obamacare. Things quickly devolved, as he struggled to defend the bill’s tax breaks for the wealthy and its rollback of Medicaid expansion. In one especially galling sequence, Price all but dismissed a cancer survivor’s concerns about the elimination of his coverage.
Here are five of the secretary’s most sickening responses.
1. To a cancer survivor:
“Medicaid expansion saved my life and saved me from medical bankruptcy,” retail worker and cancer survivor Brian Kline told Tom Price. “Why do you want to take away my Medicaid expansion?”
“The Medicaid program itself has real problems in it,” Price answered. He then blamed doctors for refusing to see Medicaid patients, hinting Kline should be more grateful.
“It’s wonderful that you have received the care that you’ve received,” he added. “But that’s not necessarily true for everybody.”
2. To a family physician:
“Do you think the members of Congress really understand the hardship the patients will have, particularly those on the edge, if they lose their health insurance? And how can we help those patients who don’t have health insurance?” family physician Mitch Jaques asked Price.
The Health Secretary demurred, insisting Republicans weren’t interested in having anybody lose health insurance—this despite a Congressional Budget Office report that as many as 14 million will lose their coverage next year alone.
“We believe strongly that the current system is failing,” he rambled. “We’re not interested in having anybody lose their health coverage or lose access to coverage. [But we don’t want] a federal government that forces them to buy.”
A survey last month found that a majority of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act.
3. To a retired public school teacher:
“The AHCA (American Heath Care Act) hikes the cost of health insurance for millions of Americans, with the biggest increase for older adults like myself,” retired public school teacher Teresa Caliari reminded Price.
“Premiums and out-of-pocket costs will rise because the bill allows insurance companies to charge premiums five times higher for people in my age group. How can you justify that change?” she continued.
The secretary argued that premium hikes were justified because insurers are already leaving Obamacare.
“They don’t take into account anything that’s happening out there in the real world,” he quipped.
4. To a Planned Parenthood patient:
“I am a Medicaid enrollee and I am a Planned Parenthood patient, and I would be absolutely devastated if Planned Parenthood were defunded,” New York resident Katie Needle told Price.
“More women’s health centers didn’t just magically appear [in Texas] because Planned Parenthood was defunded,” Needle added. “That just doesn’t happen.”
She also dismantled his argument that doctors are to blame for not accepting Medicaid.
“If that’s your big problem with Obamacare,” she said. “Then how does [defunding PP] make any sense?”
“We want to make certain is that we are responding to the concerns of the majority of the American people,” Price said, meaninglessly.
An overwhelming majority of the American people support Planned Parenthood.
5. To a Trump voter:
Denise Edwards, a Michigan resident and Trump supporter, wanted to know how the cost of her plan would vary if she accepted or denied certain services.
“Say somebody doesn’t want to take chemo, say somebody doesn’t want their child to have an immunization shot or doesn’t want to have a blood transfusion. How would that work under that plan?” Edwards asked Price.
Price grew expansive.
“This is key,” he said, “because it gets to the uniqueness of each and every individual and how they view their health care.”
Moderator Wolf Blitzer couldn’t help but notice something deeply disturbing in Price’s answer.
“Dr. Price, you’re a physician, you believe in immunizations,” the CNN anchor reminded him.