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HHS's Price gives members the wrong advice about health care

HHS's Tom Price says he wants members of Congress "to go home and talk to their constituents" about health care. He may not realize why that's bad advice.
Image: Tom Price
Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation...

Donald Trump's far-right secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, was a guest on "Meet the Press" yesterday, and NBC's Chuck Todd asked the former Georgia congressman to reflect on the state of play after the latest Republican failure on health care.

CHUCK TODD: Look, you were an elected official. You know how politics works. You know how to count votes. You know where the votes are. It's pretty clear a full repeal can't be done. It's pretty clear somehow rescinding the Medicaid expansion, that the support is not there. So what's realistic? What are you asking Congress to do now? What is one thing that you want Congress to do right now that's doable, that's realistic that can help you implement the affordable care act better?SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well, what we want Congress to do is to go home and talk to their constituents.

I don't think that's what the Trump administration wants at all. In fact, that's almost certainly what Democrats want -- because if members "go home and talk to their constituents," the GOP's regressive health care plans almost certainly won't come back.

Note, for example, that when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) flew home on Friday, she was greeted with a round of spontaneous applause at the Bangor airport. She said yesterday, "It was just amazing.... It was very encouraging and affirming, especially arriving back home after a very difficult time."

Are these the constituents Tom Price wants the senator to listen to?

What amazes me is the willingness of Trump and members of his team to pretend there's meaningful public demand for a far-right Republican health care plan. Price may not realize this, but Americans, including a whole lot of voters on the right, have rejected GOP proposals by overwhelming margins.

As we noted two weeks ago, it is no exaggeration to say the Republican health care measures are the most unpopular bills considered by Congress in the last three decades.

If Price wants members of Congress "to go home and talk to their constituents," what exactly does he expect them to say about legislation that enjoys a 12% approval rating? Does the HHS secretary genuinely believe voters are clamoring, en masse, for a bill that would raise costs, weaken coverage, and strip millions of families of their insurance?

Has Tom Price neglected to notice the lack of public protests featuring families rallying in support of Republican plans?

Perhaps I'm mistaken. Maybe Price has his finger on the public's pulse and I'm living in some bubble, blissfully unaware of the public clamoring for regressive GOP policies.

There's one way to find out: congressional Republicans should take Tom Price's advice and host town-hall forums with their constituents over health care. These members should then report back, letting us know how the GOP repeal crusade is playing with the folks back home.

Price might be surprised by the results.