Sen. Johnson criticizes Pres. Trump's response on health proposal: "Best to be consistent"

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday that President Donald Trump's inconsistent stance on a bipartisan health deal has hurt prospects for the Senate proposal aimed at stabilizing insurance markets and lowering premiums over the short term.

"It's always best for the president to be completely consistent in terms of what he's supporting or not supporting," Johnson told reporters at the Capitol. "And let's face it, he's not been particularly consistent here."

President Trump initially spoke favorably of the agreement by GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington. But President Trump subsequently declared he couldn't support it, calling it a bailout for insurance companies.

In fact, the Alexander-Murray deal is intended to ensure consumers are protected from large rate increases stemming from President Trump's decision to cut off federal payments that help insurers reimburse lower-income people for out-of-pocket costs. Insurers will get paid either way since they will pass along increased costs to consumers.

And President Trump's move won't save the treasury money, either, since under the Affordable Care Act the federal government will have to come in with subsidies to defray higher premiums for certain consumers.

Alexander came to the Senate floor on Thursday to announce that his bill with Murray has 24 co-sponsors, half Republicans and half Democrats.

Nonetheless, due to President Trump's mixed messages and ultimate apparent opposition, as well as a frosty reception in the House, prospects for the legislation appear to have stalled.

"This is a first step. Improve it and pass it sooner rather than later," Alexander said on the Senate floor. "The benefits go to consumers not insurance companies."

Johnson said that inaccurate rhetoric about the deal, from President Trump and others, has harmed prospects for the legislation.

"It's unfortunate what's happened over the last day in terms of the rhetoric from all points. 'Bailing out insurance companies' — insurance companies get protected either way," Johnson said. "It'd be nice to get the truth out there."