DesJarlais talks on health care, Trump, media, Comey’s firing

Congressman challenges Senate to deliver promise

By BRIAN GRAVES brian.graves@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 5/13/17

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee), who represents the 4th Congressional District, said Friday the recent health care bill passed by the House of Representatives protects the pre-existing …

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DesJarlais talks on health care, Trump, media, Comey’s firing

Congressman challenges Senate to deliver promise

Posted

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee), who represents the 4th Congressional District, said Friday the recent health care bill passed by the House of Representatives protects the pre-existing condition protections that are part of current law.

The congressman added in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner those coverages will be even better than currently offered.

DesJarlais is a member of the Freedom Caucus, which stalled the passage of the original bill offered by House Republicans.

“Our big concern was delivering on Trump’s promise and our promise to the American people to bring down the cost of premiums,” he said. “The first Republican bill did not do that. In fact, premiums were going to go up 15 to 20 percent for several years. That wasn’t acceptable.”

The first bill was pulled at the time and DesJarlais said the Freedom Caucus “took a lot of heat” for making that happen.

“I’ll commend the Freedom Caucus. We didn’t quit. We never were willing to give up on health care and so, we continued to negotiate with the president, then the vice-president, [U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services] Tom Price, and with the ‘Tuesday Group’ which probably had an equal number of votes that blocked the initial bill, but they just didn’t get credit,” he said.

DesJarlais said over the course of several weeks, they were able to craft a bill “that did deliver on the promises of bringing down premium costs.”

“We were ready to vote for it and support it, and we continued to struggle because, in my opinion, a lot of Republicans like saying, ‘We want to repeal Obamacare,’ but when it came down to it, they didn’t actually want to do that.”

He said it is now up to the Senate to “not water it down and deliver on the promise we made to get government out of health care.”

“The act we passed absolutely has the pre-existing conditions portion,” DesJarlais said. “That was a promise Trump made and a promise we included.”

“Pre-existing conditions are covered by law and there is so much misinformation about this, it is unfortunate,” he said. “People don’t understand that this actually protects people with pre-existing conditions more so than the current law.”

He said a state such as Tennessee can ask for a waiver which will allow a change in some of the essential health benefits and community ratings “that make insurance so expensive.”

“The high-risk pool that has been developed on a Federal level will bring new money that states have never seen before to help cover those who cannot afford their health care or they have a pre-existing condition or a new illness that has prohibited them from affording health care,” DesJarlais said.

He said the bill was passed with the realization it would have to get through the U.S. Senate.

“I hope the Senate remembers what the people elected them to do, and that was to bring back affordable health care,” he said. “About 7 percent of the population was covered by Obamacare and the rest were stuck with higher premiums.”

“There’s got to be a solution. The high-risk pools would be my answer to help the people who can’t afford health care and then we should allow other people to enjoy lower premiums,” he said.

DesJarlais also said he approved of President Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

“I think it was inevitable, whether it was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as president,” he said. “Comey dabbled in political areas that are atypical for an FBI director to do in the middle of an investigation. I don’t think it was any big surprise that Comey was let go.”

DesJarlais said he has never seen media try to “undermine a presidency” as they have with Trump.

“It’s not unprecedented. I know President George W. Bush was mocked by late-night comics up until 9/11,” he said. “Then, people realized ‘This is America’ and rallied behind the president.”

“They haven’t done that with Trump yet,” DesJarlais said. “They are not only attacking him on comedy shows, but also on mainstream news and it’s really counterproductive for the American agenda. I’d really like to see this Russian-like activity stop.”

“If you look at Russian television and CNN, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two,” he added. “CNN constantly attacks Trump which undermines America. Russian television attacks America and Trump in reverse, but it’s disappointing for me to be in Washington and trying to work and get things done for the people and we have this distraction of a media witch hunt.”

DeJarlais said he has no concerns about the investigation into potential interference of American elections by the Russians.

“I think that all countries usually have a preference in another country’s election, so you can call it meddling or manipulating,” he said. “You had former President Obama who was involved in the recent French elections and Israel’s election in opposition to [current Prime Minster] Netanyahu. So, it’s not uncommon for countries to have a preference.”

“If Russia did not have a preference for Hillary Clinton, that’s their business,” he said. “But, that does not mean Trump did anything wrong. I don’t think Trump colluded with the Russians and I think he’s very frustrated right now that the level of scrutiny by the media continues to interrupt his ability to do his job.”

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