Support for the GOP's repeal and replace plan, otherwise known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is tanking. Thus, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is out on a public relations tour to save the proposed bill. He hosted a health care town hall on CNN Wednesday, trying to defend the bill — and it didn't go so well. In large part this is because Price failed miserably defending the Planned Parenthood defunding. The AHCA, also called Trumpcare, includes provisions to defund the group.
The topic was brought up by a woman in the audience, New York resident Katie Needle, who was well versed on all the ways that Planned Parenthood helps women across the country — including herself. Needle told the HHS secretary:
Planned Parenthood provides an array of health services for women, and the majority of their patients are on Medicaid. I am a Medicaid enrollee and I am a Planned Parenthood patient, and I would be absolutely devastated if Planned Parenthood were defunded.
Then she posed one of the most important questions of the night. "How do you expect the millions of low-income women nationwide who depend on Planned Parenthood for these vital human services — basic needs — to access these things if Planned Parent were defunded?" she asked.
Price's answer just didn't cut it. He focused completely on tax dollars and abortion, which is not the issue at all, as the Hyde Amendment has made funding abortion with federal dollars illegal since 1976. Here is Price's response:
This is a good question because the fact is that the American people, for decades, have said they didn't want their tax dollars, their federal tax dollars, to be used for the provision of abortion services. And so what we have tried to do — when I was in Congress and now with the administration — is to respond to the desires of the American people in a way that answers their concerns.
Then in his alternative fact universe, Price argued that the bill "actually increases money for women's health services." But he didn't really explain how. "We do so by providing those monies through community health centers. There are over 13,000, if my number is correct, over 13,000 community health centers across this country, and they're in the hundreds of Planned Parenthood facilities," Price said. But how closing off access to any number of clinics — even a small number — increases money for women is beyond me. He does not support this claim.
Instead he circles back to abortion. "So what we're trying to do is respond to the American people and their concerns about having their federal tax dollars used for the provision of abortion services," Price argued, adding that the bill would "make certain that women not only have more ability to get to a health center, but have more resources to be able to do so." With a phasing out of Medicaid and reduced government support for private insurance, that seems unlikely.
Needle pointed out that Planned Parenthood is one of the best options for women looking to receive care on Medicaid. She said that Price had in the past attacked Obamacare because just one-third of doctors accepted Medicaid. Since Planned Parenthood serves about 1.6 million Medicaid patients a year, Needle questioned his logic. "If that’s your big problem with Obamacare, then how does that make any sense?” she asked.
Clearly, when it comes to defunding Planned Parenthood, logic is not a large part of the equation.