Hari Sreenivasan: Confusion reigns in Washington tonight over an effort to save the subsidies in Obamacare. Two senators, Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, had announced an agreement. Then, the president entered the fray. Lisa Desjardins has the story.
Lisa Desjardins: From President Trump and the White House, multiple statements in 24 hours left heads spinning on exactly where he stands on a bipartisan health care fix. First, positive words yesterday afternoon.
President Donald Trump: And they're coming up, and they're fairly close to a short-term solution.
Lisa Desjardins: Then, last night at the conservative Heritage Foundation, a seeming rebuke.
President Donald Trump: While I commend the bipartisan work done by senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess, instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.
Lisa Desjardins: He echoed the same concern this morning on Twitter. Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded on the Senate floor, saying the president is going back on his word and appears confused.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-n.y., Minority Leader: The president ought to know what he is talking about when he tweets about bills, because, on this one, he has no understanding of what it's about.
Lisa Desjardins: Finally, this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president is opposed to the deal as it stands now.
Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary: The bill is a step, a good step in the right direction, but it is not a full approach, and we need something to go a little bit further to get on board.
Lisa Desjardins: The job of untangling it all fell to Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, trying to craft this deal to stabilize health care markets. He spoke with Mr. Trump this morning.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-tenn.: You know, some people think the president doesn't know what he's doing around here. I don't think that. He told me that he wanted to encourage me, but that he will review it, as I would expect a president to do.
Lisa Desjardins: Soon after that, the president stressed his main concern.
President Donald Trump: If something can happen, that's fine, but I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies.
Lisa Desjardins: So would the compromise enrich insurers? Let's look. The billions in continued subsidies here are to cover co-pays and deductibles for lower-income Americans. Insurance companies are meant to be a kind of middleman. Insurers pay the doctor for those poorer individuals' costs, and the government sends insurers the subsidies as a kind of repayment. Without the subsidies, insurers legally still must cover these costs for poor Americans. So, to make up the money, they have made it clear they would raise premiums. And some already are. Republican Senate sources say the president is worried that insurers could take advantage of that money flow, but Senator Alexander insists the bill has provisions to police them. So, where do the bill's chances stand? The president wants some changes. Schumer says all or most Democrats will vote yes. And Alexander, not one to overstate things, says this.
Sen. Lamar Alexander: I would predict that before end of the year that this agreement in one form or another will become law.
Lisa Desjardins: For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.