Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Thursday that he is open to repealing and replacing ObamaCare even as his party’s leadership demands that Republicans drop their effort to nix President Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“It needs to be improved. It hasn’t been improved. We can either work to improve that or repeal it and replace with something better. I’m open to either one,” Tester told Fox News, adding later he doesn’t support the plan passed by House Republicans on Thursday.
Tester, who is up for reelection in 2018 in a state won by President Trump, said that he doesn’t think lawmakers did enough to try to fix the Affordable Care Act since it was passed in 2010.
“There were plenty of mistakes made with the [Affordable Care Act], there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Quite frankly, we didn’t make the modifications over the last six, seven years, for obvious reasons, to make that bill better.”
Tester has previously signaled that he would be open to repealing ObamaCare depending on the replacement plan, telling CNN in March that “if the replacement increases access and affordability, you’re darn right, I’ll be there.”
But his comments on Thursday come as the House passed its bill aimed at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, dubbed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), without any Democratic votes.
Asked about the House legislation, Tester warned that it could increase premiums and negatively impact older Americans and individuals with pre-existing conditions.
“I think we need to make sure we’re improving things, and not taking a step backwards, because if we get into the area of shifting costs again, where people don’t have insurance and they get sick, or they end up having an accident and not being able to pay for that health care, somebody else is going to pay for it,” he told Fox.
Asked about Tester’s Fox News interview, Luke Jackson, a spokesman for Tester, said the Democratic senator does not support the House bill.
“Sen. Tester has always said that he will support any bill that increases access to affordable health care. The bill passed by the House today doesn’t do that,” he said in a statement to The Hill.
Tester’s comment come as Senate Democratic leadership has offered to work with Republicans on fixing ObamaCare, but only if GOP lawmakers drop their push to repeal the Obama-era law.
“Senate Republicans should refuse to follow their House colleagues over a cliff, reject repeal, and work with Democrats to improve our healthcare system in a bipartisan way,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the House’s vote on Thursday.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who like Tester is up for reelection in a state won by Trump, said during a Playbook interview that Republicans need to pivot away from repealing ObamaCare and focus instead on repairing it.
Some of the segments above were written by Jordain Carney at The Hill