WASHINGTON – Ohio Gov. John Kasich argued Sunday that Republicans and Democrats should work together to improve health care legislation, criticizing the current House GOP health care bill while predicting that President Donald Trump "would be flexible" on the issue.
“When you jam something through one party over another, it's not sustainable. It becomes a point of attack,” the former 2016 Republican presidential candidate said on “Meet The Press,” also adding that he believes the president is “very open to compromise. He's told me that.”
Kasich later said, “I have no doubt he’d be flexible, he just wants to get something through,” but that “we need to have Democrats involved."
This week, House Republicans unveiled a bill they’re calling the “American Health Care Act,” which gets rid of the individual mandate for Obamacare, replaces health care subsidies with tax credits and eventually freezes the Medicaid expansion in place in 32 states.
As governor, Kasich enacted the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in 2013, creating a rift with conservatives in his own party and separating him from the field of other presidential contenders on the issue.
He recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times arguing for lawmakers on both sides of the party to work with each other on the issue, saying that phasing out the Medicaid expansion would put people at risk.
He said he believes “the political parties are disintegrating before our very eyes. I think more and more people across this country see no purpose for political parties."
"There are more and more Independents because of the squabbling," he added. "What's at risk here to Democrats is you can't turn your back on these people. And to Republicans, you need to invite Democrats in because we're talking about lives. All this consumption with who gains politically, you know, life is short. And if all you focus on in life is what's in it for me, you're a loser. You are a big time loser. And this country better be careful we're not losing the soul of our country because we play politics and we forget people who are in need."
That said, the governor maintained that he still identifies himself as a Republican because he's "a conservative."
Even though Republicans control the White House, the House and the Senate, the governor predicted that any legislation passed without the support of people on the other side of the aisle wouldn't be sustainable in the long-term. "If you don’t get both parties together, nothing is sustainable," he said. "If they pass this just by themselves, we’ll be back at this again.”
The governor anticipated that the House will eventually pass the legislation, and once it gets to the Senate, “that’s where they are going to have to make improvements.”
Kasich recently spoke with President Trump and his top advisers at the White House about where he was coming from on health care. At the time, Kasich said that the president “was very responsive” to his concerns about the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion. A Kasich adviser later told NBC News that when Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner reminded the president that he was in favor of what’s in the House plan, the president responded, “I like this plan better.”
The governor never endorsed the president before the election, and did not cast his vote for him. But he has since struck a respectful tone toward Trump, likening it to rooting for the pilot while flying on an airplane.
Kasich later met with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to discuss his thoughts, and has since stayed in some communication with the administration over his thoughts on the bill, lobbying the administration for changes he wants to see while the president lobbies him to support what they have.
Responding Sunday to a local interview Vice President Mike Pence did this week with an Ohio TV station claiming that the new legislation will give Ohio the “resources and flexibility that they need to be able to meet those needs going forward,” the governor flatly stated “no, he’s not right,” referencing the 700,000 people now receiving coverage under the state’s Medicaid expansion.
“Look, the bill needs [to be] fixed," Kasich said. "The current system doesn’t work. That’s why it’s possible to get Democrats involved … it’s not like we love Obamacare. It means don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Don’t kill Medicaid expansion, and you’ve got to fix the exchange, but you have to have the ability to subsidize people at lower income levels. If you are drug addicted, if you are mentally ill, you have to consistently see the doctor. From what I see in this House bill, the resources are not there.”