Cruz: ‘Premiums, Premiums, Premiums’ -- 'That's the Central Problem'

By Susan Jones | March 20, 2017 | 8:28 AM EDT

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says he "cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising." (AP File Photo)

( – When it comes to health insurance, “The number one issue is premiums – premiums, premiums, premiums,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

When I am back home in Texas, what I hear from Texans every single day is, I can't afford health insurance -- that Obamacare, the average family's premiums, they have risen over $5,000 under Obamacare. That's the central problem.

Now, the current House bill, as drafted, I do not believe it will pass the Senate. It doesn't fix the problem. My biggest concern with the House bill is, it doesn't lower premiums. And CBO, in fact, projected that, in the first two years, premiums would rise 10 to 20 percent.

But I got to tell you, if Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we have repealed Obamacare, and everyone's premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets, and quite rightfully.

Cruz said the cost of premiums is related to how many people are covered. And he said the only way to drive down premiums is to repeal all of the Obamacare mandates; allow insurance purchases across state lines; allow associations to form their own health insurance pools; and allow people to pay their premiums from health savings accounts, all at once.

“All of those will make it much more affordable for people to get health insurance,” Cruz said.

The Republican repeal-and-replace plan, as crafted by House Republicans, envisions all of those things, but not in one bill. After the repeal of some Obamacare mandates and Obamacare taxes with the current bill, step two is reversing Obamacare regulations; and step three is legislating new healthcare provisions, such as inter-state insurance sales.

“That ain’t going to happen,” Cruz said about step three -- the Republican plan to legislate additional key elements of their health insurance plan. He noted that in the Republicans’ “three-bucket solution,” “all the good stuff is in bucket three.”

But passing legislation (bucket three) requires eight Democrat votes, Cruz noted: “Right now, Senate Democrats are opposing everything. You can't get eight Senate Democrats to agree on saying good morning," he said.

“Anything in bucket three -- I have called bucket three the sucker's bucket. And what I have been urging the president and the administration and leader in both houses, take everything in bucket three, put it in bucket one. We have got to actually fix this problem.”

Cruz rejected the Republican argument that they can’t put certain provisions in bucket one (the initial legislation) because it isn’t budgetary in nature.

“You look at the insurance mandates -- they impact billions of dollars of federal spending. And I will point out the Obama Justice Department went before the U.S. Supreme Court twice, and argued the mandates are integrally related, they're intertwined with the subsidies, you cannot sever them.

“Under the statute, we can do this now in bucket one. And if we don't, this bill doesn't pass. And if it doesn't pass, it is a substantive and political disaster for everyone involved.”

Cruz said he has had “multiple conversations” with President Trump about the need to lower health insurance premiums, and the president “is listening to the arguments on all sides.”

“He wants to get to yes, and I want to get to yes, but we have got to actually solve the problem. That is my focus right now.”

“I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising,” Cruz said.