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Trump tells Anthem, other health insurers to expect 'something special'

February 27, 2017

President Donald Trump told major U.S. health insurers at a White House meeting Monday to expect “something special” to replace Obamacare, as the administration gets more involved in Republican efforts to repeal the health-care law.

“We’re going to be talking about it tomorrow night during the speech,” Trump said, referring to his address to a joint session of Congress scheduled for Tuesday. “I think you’ll like what you hear.”

CEOs from firms including Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., Humana Inc., Independence Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina were listed as attending Monday’s White House meeting. Reporters were removed from the session before the CEOs spoke.

The session is a chance for the industry to weigh in on the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health law also known as Obamacare. Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and congressional leaders are trying to figure out how to fulfill their pledge of repealing the law, which extended health insurance to about 20 million people, and designing a replacement.

“The market is disastrous,” Trump told the executives Monday, referring to the marketplaces set up by Obamacare to sell coverage, which have seen rising premiums and some major insurers leaving. “It’s going to absolutely implode.”

“I’m asking Secretary Price to work with you to stabilize the insurance markets and to ensure a smooth transition to the new plan. The new plan will be a great plan for the patients, for the people and hopefully for the companies. Going to be a very competitive plan. And costs will come down and I think the health care will go up very, very substantially,” Trump said. “We’ve taken the best of everything we could take.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobby group, said in a statement before the session that insurers are looking forward to talking about “how we can best ensure every American has affordable coverage and access to quality care.”

There’s been a renewed focus by the administration on health care after initial promises to make it a priority for the first days of the Trump White House seemed to slow. The ACA has also been a key topic in his discussions with governors, who are currently in Washington for their national association’s winter meeting.

“Everyone is different, every state is different and different requirements, but I think we have something that is really going to be excellent,” Trump told governors Sunday evening.

Trump said Monday at the White House that he hoped that Democrats would cooperate, though they have pledged to resist GOP efforts to roll back the law.“We are going to hopefully work with the Democrats because ultimately we’re all people that love this country and we want to do the right thing, including reforms like expanded health-care savings accounts” and being able to purchase coverage across state lines, Trump said.

At a separate meeting Saturday to talk about health care, governors were told of big cuts to the Medicaid health program for the poor and to the ACA’s individual market that could come from decisions tied to repealing the ACA. Congressional leaders are still working on their own plans, and haven’t yet unveiled specifics.

Asked whether Trump can guarantee that no one will lose coverage under his plan to replace Obamacare, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that was the aspiration.

“The goal is that we make sure that people don’t lose their coverage and that we have to put a high priority on people that need it most,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week” program Sunday.

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