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GOP Rep. Jim Jordan Of Ohio On Obamacare Repeal Plans


Many members of Congress are out in their home states and districts during this recess, and they're getting an earful. Voters have been expressing concern over several key Republican policies, including the promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, like this crowd in Marion, Ohio.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Give us your insurance. Give us your insurance. Give us your insurance. Give us your insurance.

GREENE: Protesters chanting give us your insurance in front of former President Warren G. Harding's home. They were there to confront Congressman Jim Jordan. He represents Ohio's 4th District. He is a Republican, member of the Conservative Freedom Caucus. He has been among those who have called for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed and replaced. And the congressman is on the line with us. Good morning.

JIM JORDAN: Good morning, David. How are you doing?

GREENE: I'm well, thank you. So when you hear people yelling at you give us your insurance, what - how are you taking that? What are you hearing?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, they're exercising their First Amendment liberties. I think that's a great thing. We had a nice meeting on Monday with - well, what was probably a couple hundred folks there in the heart of our district. But I think there's a frustration with all Americans, not just those there who - who were protesting but all Americans, at the cost of health insurance. And what - our legislation that we introduced last week, we believe, if implemented, would actually bring down the cost of insurance and put in place a model that empowers people and not frankly what we currently have, which is one that all the power frankly resides in Washington, D.C., under the Obamacare Affordable Care Act. So that's where we want to be (ph).

GREENE: This, we should say, is - this is one plan that Republicans have put forward - it comes from Senator Rand Paul - that you're talking about. And I don't want to totally get into policy wonk mode, the two of us, but, you know, the plan relies in part on tax credits. And Senator Paul has said that if you don't pay taxes, you can't get a credit. Does that mean that you would be leaving some lower income Americans without help to get health insurance?

JORDAN: What it means is if our plan's individualized, you bring down the cost of insurance. Right now, if you're an individual in the individual market not getting your insurance through your employer - through an employer-sponsored plan, you're paying all kinds of high costs. A 27-year-old kid paying 500 bucks a month for a $6,000 deductible - they're the healthiest people in the world typically. They should be - they should be low cost to insure. But Obamacare, because of all the required coverages, because of all the mandates that are in the legislation, it's driving up the costs for everyone. What we want to bring back is insurance that's...

GREENE: But if I may - I apologize for interrupting...

JORDAN: ...Less expensive.

GREENE: The - but the question - I mean, if people won't get these tax credits if they don't pay taxes, doesn't that mean some low-income people will be left out?

JORDAN: What it means is we're going to bring back a market that actually lowers the cost. And what we have set in our plan is, look, if you've had insurance, you're not going to be kicked off insurance. But you can't have this perverse incentive that it currently exists which says all these coverages are mandated which drives up the costs. And people who never then get insurance because it costs so high, if something happens to them, they can go to the insurance industry, insurance company, and say you have to insure me and the law says you have to insure them then (ph). So if someone could wait until their house is...

GREENE: But there could be people who don't...

JORDAN: Think about this, though. If someone could wait until their house is on fire before they buy homeowner's insurance, don't you think that's going to drive up the cost of insurance for everyone? That's exactly what we currently have under the Affordable Care Act. What we want to do is change that.

GREENE: But isn't one problem you confront that low-income people who don't pay taxes might not get help to get insurance, that is a possibility here.

JORDAN: I think, under our plan, when you bring down the cost of insurance, people are going to be able to afford insurance again. That's the whole point. That's why we put together - and frankly we're the only plan out there. We say repeal it just like we - the same legislation we put on President Obama's desk put on President Trump's desk that would repeal it. And here's our replacement model, and we put out a plan sponsored by Dr. Paul in the Senate and Congressman Sanford in the House that we think does what I just described.

GREENE: Congressman, the anger you were hearing at the town hall over health care, some Republicans, including the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, say that these crowds are in part manufactured. Does that suggest that you and your party are not taking the concerns about health care so seriously?

JORDAN: Not at all. Look, I've heard anger from Americans for six years (unintelligible) the Affordable Care Act, and the folks in the 4th District of Ohio knew very clearly where I stood. I've talked about it for the last six years. And we were elected, fortunately, with a strong majority of the vote - almost 70 percent of the vote in our district. So I think the folks and the families and the business owners and the taxpayers I get to represent understand very clearly where I stand, and they understand this law needs to go. And frankly I don't...

GREENE: So you don't think these crowds are manufactured. I mean, you think these are...

JORDAN: No, I think they're mostly from your district, and I think that's fine. But even if it was manufactured, they're still Americans. I'm still willing to talk to them. I think that's, you know, that's the beauty of the First Amendment. I'll talk to whoever wants to talk about policy and talk about issues that are important to the families in our district and across this country. So I didn't, frankly, care if they were from our district or not. What I care about's doing the right policy that I think is consistent with what I told the voters I was going to do. And the voters in our district knew loudly and clearly where I stood and where I stand on the Affordable Care Act.

GREENE: Because I'm so interested - the Obama White House said very much the same thing back in 2009, that the big tea party crowds who were turning out were partly manufactured. I just wondered if there was some lesson there that could be helpful to you and your party, that Obama didn't take that as seriously as he should have.

JORDAN: No, I take it very seriously. And I think the vast majority of the folks who were there on Monday at our event were from our district, and that's fine. But even if they weren't, I was still going to talk to them and I'm still going to answer their questions. And I stood there and answered them for 45 minutes because I think that's the thing to do when you're a representative of the people and the district that you get the privilege of representing.

GREENE: Congressman, you've been so adamant about not repairing or fixing Obamacare. You're saying, you know, get rid of it, something different. But in a poll from CBS last month, nationwide, 53 percent of Republicans said they want to change the law to make it better. Only 41 percent said they want to abolish it altogether. Are you open to keeping some of it?

JORDAN: I'm for changing health care and changing health insurance and putting in a model that makes sense, a model that lowers cost. That's what I'm for doing. And what we told the voters very loudly and very clearly both in our district and I think Republicans across the country was we're for repealing it and replacing it. We're not for repairing it. We're not for tweaking it. We're not for saying if you like it you can keep it. What we said very clearly to the American people was let's repeal it. Let's replace it with a model that empowers them and empowers the market and brings down cost.

That's exactly what we - we had a press conference last week, and we put that kind of plan on the table, which is entirely consistent, exactly what we told the voters we were going to do. So that's - I mean, we make this job way too complicated, David. Our job, as members of Congress, is to do what we told the voters we were going to do. Do what they sent us there to do. And that's exactly what our plan does.

GREENE: OK. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of the 4th District of Ohio, we really appreciate you talking to us this morning. Thanks.

JORDAN: You bet. Thank you. Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL'S "ARABESQUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.