Paul Ryan likens life-or-death concerns about health insurance to a 'beauty contest'


House Speaker Paul Ryan belittled serious concerns about the millions of Americans who would lose coverage under his plan to repeal health care, describing it as a "beauty contest."

In an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) added to the list of increasingly mean-spirited and shortsighted comments made by Republicans over concerns about their Obamacare repeal plan.

Ryan dismissed the fears expressed by millions about having the rug pulled out from under them, as the Republican "American Health Care Act" is estimated to eliminate coverage for anywhere between 10-20 million Americans. The plan has been widely condemned by the American Medical Association, AARP, American Lung Association, as well as by the Democratic Party. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have also attacked the bill, but only because it is not cruel enough to patients.

Asked about the upcoming Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that are likely to detail massive drops in health insurance coverage under the GOP's plan, Ryan told Hewitt he had instructed House Republicans — who have already been laying the groundwork to attempt to discredit the CBO and its findings — to be prepared for the bad press.


Ryan then stated, "We always know you're never going to win a coverage beauty contest when it's free market versus government mandates." And he referred to the massive increases in coverage as a result of Obamacare as "a pretty piece of paper that says we're mandating great things for Americans."

HEWITT: Finally, the CBO's going to come out with a number, Speaker Ryan, that says 15 million people are going to lose their insurance. Now you can't really lose what you don't use, and can't use. How are you going to combat that number to get through the narrow gate of 51 senators?

RYAN: That's right. I've been telling our members, 'Just get ready.' This is always what happens with CBO. We couldn't, you know — we often mark up bills in what we call authorizing committees, like Ways and Means and Commerce before you have a score, and then the score comes. That's very typical. But we always know you're never going to win a coverage beauty contest when it's free market versus government mandates. If the government says 'Thou shall buy our health insurance,' the government estimates are going to say people will comply and it will happen. And when you replace that with 'We're going to have a free market, and you buy what you want to buy,' they're going to say not nearly as many people are going to do that. That's just going to happen.

And so you'll have those coverage estimates. We assume that's going to happen. That's not our goal. Our goal is not to show a pretty piece of paper that says we're mandating great things for Americans. Our goal is to get a vibrant health care system that's patient-centered, that brings down costs, that increases choices, that has a marketplace so that we lower the costs and therefore increase the access to affordable care. That's our goal, and it's not to win some coverage beauty contest, but you're right. You're going to see some number coming out, I have no doubt in my mind about that. I've spoken to our members about that. We're going to talk to our members constantly about this, because we're not going to get into a bidding war with the left about how much we can mandate or put entitlements out there for people. If you're repealing one entitlement and bloc granting to the states another entitlement, the government's not going to say we're getting more entitlements. It's just simple. But that is going to be, I think, something a little bit confusing to people. And we've been telling our members all along you know that's what's going to happen, so get ready.

Ryan is casually belittling the concerns that have led to a grassroots revolt against him, Trump, and the Republican Party. Americans do not want to lose their access to care, especially not in exchange for a massive tax cut for the super-wealthy and a laundry list of giveaways to the insurance industry.

Other Republicans have made similarly dismissive comments, sounding a lot like Ryan. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who told low-income Americans that they should prioritize health care "rather than getting that new iPhone." And Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) suggested cancer patients could just go to the emergency room for their treatment, ignoring the intensive process needed for chemotherapy.

Describing concerns over coverage for cancer, reproductive health, other diseases and debilitating conditions or just basic health insurance as a "beauty contest" is cruel and heartless. And it shows just how little "care" there is in the GOP's health care plan.