Trump team feigns ignorance of massive tax giveaway to CEOs in their health care bill

HHS Secretary Tom Price claimed he is is not familiar with the provision that cuts taxes for companies paying CEOs more than $500,000 a year.

President Donald Trump met with top health insurance executives in February. His health care bill could give them a large tax cut. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Donald Trump met with top health insurance executives in February. His health care bill could give them a large tax cut. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Throughout the 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump blasted the Affordable Cart Act as a law that really only helped insurers. “You know who makes the money with Obamacare? I don’t know if you know. The insurance companies.” But weeks after meeting with top health insurance CEOs, President Trump announced on Tuesday a replacement proposal that includes a massive tax cut for insurance companies that pay their CEOs more than $500,000 a year.

Asked to defend this provision of the bill on Tuesday — technically a sunset of a provision in the tax code — his Secretary of Health and Human Services did not do so. A reporter asked how a tax break for insurance executives making more than $500,000 a year was important to the legislation’s stated aim of controlling costs for patients. Secretary Tom Price responded, “I’m not aware of that. I’ll look into that.”

But it is hard to believe that Trump’s health secretary — himself an orthopedic surgeon — would not know that this provision is in the legislation. The administration put him before reporters specifically to defend the bill. The marketing campaign for the legislation, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his House GOP leadership team, is literally called “#ReadTheBill” and its text appears at a website with a “readthebill.gop” URL.

Moreover, even if Price has not read the bill, as The Intercept’s Lee Fang observed, an identical provision was included in a 2015 budget bill passed by the House of Representatives. Its author: then–Georgia Congressman Tom Price.

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Price has not put out any statement since yesterday’s press conference regarding the provision. But a letter posted on his Twitter account and the HHS website on Tuesday endorsed the Trumpcare legislation as “patient-centered solutions that will provide all Americans with access to affordable, quality health care, promote innovation, and offer peace of mind for those with pre-existing conditions.”

The Department of Health and Human Services media team did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about whether Price has indeed looked into the provision.