U.S. Markets closed

'Most of benefits go to millionaires': George Stephanopoulos grills Paul Ryan over Republican healthcare bill

Maxwell Tani

ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos grilled House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday over the American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

In an interview on "This Week," Stephanopoulos first asked the speaker why the AHCA, House Republicans' replacement for President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, allowed states to opt out of mandating that insurers not raise insurance costs for Americans with preexisting conditions.

"Even if you used all $138 billion that you all put in for high-risk pools, that would still cover only a fraction of those with preexisting conditions," Stephanopoulos said.

Ryan defended a provision in the bill that barred insurers for charging more for preexisting conditions as long as individuals did not have a lapse in their health insurance coverage, arguing that "you can't say for healthcare in America one size fits all."

"Under this bill, no matter what, you cannot be denied coverage if you have a preexisting condition," Ryan said. "And under this bill, you cannot only not be denied coverage."

"But you can charge people more," Stephanopoulos interjected.

"Let me finish my point," Ryan said. "You can't charge people more if they keep continuous coverage. The key of having a continuous coverage provision is to make sure that people stay covered and they move from one plan to the next if they want to. It's kind of like waiting until your house is on fire to then buy your homeowner's insurance. You want to make sure that people stay covered to keep the cost down."

Stephanopoulos also pressed the speaker to answer critics who asserted that the bill unfairly benefited the wealthy by rolling back the taxes on high income earners that helped fund the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare. 

The ABC anchor said the AHCA cuts $900 million in taxes for individuals who earn over $200,000 annually, while also cutting $1 trillion in subsidies for Medicaid.

"Most of benefits go to millionaires," Stephanopoulos said.

Ryan characterized the bill as a "a rescue operation," touting hypothetical benefits of block-granting Medicaid, which gives states a lump sum rather than a per-person amount.

"We're giving states the ability to run their own Medicaid program," Ryan said, arguing that block-granting Medicaid was "hardly draconian."

"So, you don't think anyone will be hurt when you're taking $880 billion out of the system?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No I don't, because I think the micro-management of Medicaid by the federal government," Ryan replied. "The Medicaid system isn't working. Doctors aren't taking Medicaid, hospitals can't survive with Medicaid alone. So by giving the states the ability to customize their Medicaid population their program to work for them."

Though Ryan defended the House plan, he acknowledged that the Senate version is likely to differ significantly.

Several top Republicans in the senate have voiced skepticism of the House plan, which they say places too many costs on older, poorer Americans and would burden some states with high healthcare costs. The Senate plans to draft its own healthcare legislation in the coming weeks.

Watch clips below, via ABC:

NOW WATCH: 'OJ had me shook': A Georgetown professor reveals what it was like to talk to OJ Simpson after bashing him on national television

More From Business Insider