Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defended the Obamacare replacement bill released by House Republicans as a “work in progress” in response to conservatives who widely criticized the new bill.
“This is a work in progress and we’ll work with the House and the Senate in this process, as you know this is a legislative process that occurs,” he said.
Price added that he fully expected to get more people engaged in the process of the bill going forward.
“Nothing focuses the mind like a bill that’s currently on the table … and we’ll work through it,” he said during a special appearance at the White House press briefing on Tuesday.
Price was specifically asked about conservative groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, who remained opposed to the bill.
“Well, I think that this is the beginning of the process and we look forward to working with them and others to make certain that, again, we come up with that process that aligns with the principles that we’ve defined, that they actually adhere to or agree with as well,” he said.
Price called the process “open and transparent,” adding that “tens if not hundreds” of people were involved, responding to critics that said the bill’s details were drafted in secret.
“This is exactly the type of back-room dealing and rushed process that we criticized Democrats for and it is not what we promised the American people,” Sen. Mike Lee said in a statement.
Price repeatedly referred to the bill as focused on patients first, not government mandates, defending the tax credits offered to help offset insurance costs.
“Tax credits that allow individuals to be able to purchase the kind of coverage that they want, not that the government forces them to buy,” he said.
Conservatives have derided the bill as “Obamacare Lite” or “Obamacare 2.0” as it keeps all the entitlements provided by Obamacare without a government mandate requiring Americans to pay for it.
Price added that the new bill was only “phase one” of the health care reforms promised by the president, previewing “phase two and phase three” of the process.
When asked by reporters how he felt about the slogan “TrumpCare” to define the new effort, Price demurred.
“I’ll let others provide a description for it. I prefer to call it patient care,” he said. “This is about patients, at the end of the day. This isn’t about politicians. This isn’t about insurance companies. This is about patients.”