WASHINGTON – Former White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett argued that the legislative process for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was “open and honest” and “all very transparent” compared to the GOP’s healthcare bill.
Jarrett slammed the Trump administration for not effectively “marketing” Obamacare to get more Americans to sign up for coverage.
“I mean, we had hundreds of meetings. We made hundreds of amendments. It was all very transparent. We invited the Republicans in for an open press session to answer all of their questions. It was a collaborative effort. The intent was to make it bipartisan and the intent was to be open and honest with the American people. Our scoring was put out for everybody to see because we wanted people to understand, before a decision was made, what was at stake and what we were trying to accomplish,” Jarrett said during a Democrats Live event on Wednesday evening.
“Right now, everyone was scurrying around this week to read a very long and complicated bill, and the question you have to say was, ‘if they’re proud of it, why were they hiding it behind closed doors?’ And my real hot-button was why were 13 men in a room deciding about healthcare that impacts my life? You have 21 women in the Senate. They couldn’t have picked one of those women to be there?” she added.
Jarrett criticized the Republican effort to roll back the Obamacare requirement that all health insurance plans cover maternity care.
“So, of course, they’re thinking about taking away maternity care. Well, now they are hearing from women all over the country, well, don’t do that. Well, if they had a woman on the committee, they would not have made that mistake,” she said.
In 2011, after Obamacare was signed into law, the C-SPAN CEO at the time, Brian Lamb, said the White House never requested that C-SPAN cover the healthcare negotiations, which was one of President Obama’s campaign promises.
“The president said they were all going to be on C-SPAN. He never asked us and we don’t work for the government. We would have covered it but it was just interesting that he assumed, ‘they’re going to be on C-SPAN; they’re going to be on C-SPAN.’ I never thought they would,” Lamb said.
When Obamacare was being debated, some members of Congress said publicly they were not going to read the roughly 2,300-page bill before voting on it.
In July 2009, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), then-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that he was not going to read the bill because it was too complicated.
“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers.
“What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
In October 2009, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of the Senate HELP Committee, said the legislative language of the bill was too complicated to read.
“I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life,” Carper said at the time.
When the House voted on its repeal and replace legislation in May, some Republicans said they didn’t read that bill, either. “I will fully admit… I did not,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) told CNN. “But I can also assure you my staff did.”
“I don’t think any individual has read the whole bill,” Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) told MSNBC. “That’s why we have staff.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, encouraged Democrats last week to “keep on fighting” and “resisting” the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill.
“Keep on putting yourself out there because they know that they have promised that they are going to repeal so much that if they fail to do it, the world is going to notice – but I say, ‘keep up the fight,’” he said at the Democrats Live event.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said there is “no one spiking the football” in the healthcare debate.
“They [the GOP] will come back. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Perez predicted that President Trump would not accept Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) offer to bring together a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss healthcare.
“I suspect that invitation will not be accepted because they do not want to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Perez said.
Obamacare did not receive any Republican votes in the House or Senate in 2010.
“They have never said ‘let’s make it better.’ They have only said, ‘let’s repeal it,’” Ellison said.
Jarrett criticized the Trump administration for not spending more money on marketing Obamacare to the public.
“Just something as simple as marketing dollars, they’ve cut back dramatically on the marketing, and we know how hard it is to reach people where they are. You have to go out and talk to people about the benefits. Everyone is busy and you can’t just expect them to go, ‘yes, let’s sign up for this.’ Government has a responsibility to go out and educate people,” she said.
Jarrett suggested that the health insurance exchanges are “suffering” because of the Trump administration’s lack of support for Obamacare.
“Given the state of it today, why aren’t they doing everything possible to make it work? Already we’ve seen they are not marketing the ACA – that means as long as it is the law of the land they have the responsibility to successfully implement it until that changes, and they’re not,” Jarrett said.
“They’re not doing that so the exchanges are suffering. We are hearing from insurance companies the reason they are pulling out of some locations and raising their premiums is because of uncertainty. The elected officials owe it to them to give them the certainty,” she added. “Until there is a new plan, this is the law of the land and we should be trying to make it stronger – not weakening it.”