House Speaker Paul Ryan staunchly defended the controversial American Healthcare Act that passed the House of Representatives last week, claiming that allegations about people with preexisting conditions losing insurance are false and that the Democratic Party had engaged in a smear campaign against the bill.
"Under this bill, no matter what, you cannot be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition," Ryan told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on the network's Sunday show, This Week.
The version of the AHCA that passed in the House included an amendment that gives states the option to waive out of the Obamacare mandate that prevents people from preexisting health conditions from being charged higher coverage prices. The bill now heads to the Senate, and it is unclear if that amendment will remain.
When Stephanopoulos pointed out that even if the AHCA didn't take away coverage from those with preexisting conditions, it enabled insurers to charge them more, Ryan countered that such provisions wouldn't apply to people who retained continuous coverage — or coverage without any gaps — to which Stephanopoulos noted that people often lose coverage, and its not their personal choice. Ryan responded that the state programs that receive the waiver would sufficiently cover people with pre-existing conditions.
"The point of this bill in those states that get a waiver to do what they need to do to make it work better in their particular states has support exactly for that very person who, if, in the course between a year, get extra aid for support for pre-existing conditions," Ryan explained, citing what he said were successful examples in Wisconsin and Maine.
Ryan's appearance on This Week was preceded by surgeon Atul Gawande, who said one of his biggest concerns was that the bill would weaken protections for pre-existing conditions.
"I fundamentally disagree with that on so many levels," Ryan said of Gawande's analysis.
Criticism of House Republicans increased after the bill passed without an updated analysis from the Congressional Budget Office — which initially estimated the AHCA would increase the number of uninsured to 24 million by 2026 — and after several Republicans conceded they had not fully read the bill before voting for it. Ryan said these criticisms were the result of liberal attacks.
"I think this is a kind of a bogus attack from the left," he said. "The most recent CBO score show that we're perfectly in compliance with the Senate budget rules, which is what matters here. And this last amendment, a three-page amendment, is not going to dramatically alter that score."
And, despite analysts' prediction that the AHCA would hurt vulnerable House Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections — the Cook Political Report just shifted ratings in 20 districts showing opportunities for Democrats — Ryan said he was confident this vote would only help the GOP's prospects.
"We're keeping our word," said Ryan. "People expect their elected leaders, if they run and campaign on doing something, they expect them to do that. And that's what we're doing."