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Trump answers to Obamacare changes don’t satisfy Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 27, 2017

Democratic Governors Association  Vice Chairman Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington speaks at a news conference following a DGA meeting at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (Cliff Owen / Associated Press)
Democratic Governors Association Vice Chairman Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington speaks at a news conference following a DGA meeting at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

Trump administration officials could not promise the nation’s governors that millions of people who have health insurance through Obamacare will keep it, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.

After a meeting earlier in the day between President Donald Trump and the governors, who gathered over the weekend in Washington, D.C., Inslee said he could get no such assurance from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The president indicated that tax cuts were a higher priority than health care reform and admitted he was surprised at how complicated the issue is, Inslee added.

Although Inslee was speaking from memory and said he wasn’t quoting Trump word for word, that matches an Associated Press report of the meeting in which the president is quoted as saying, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

Governors couldn’t get an answer to whether states would be able to keep the systems they set up under the Affordable Care Act if they were working well, or any promise that people who have health care now could still have it after a reform, he said.

In Olympia, Republican legislators said Monday they were willing to take a wait-and-see approach to federal changes on the law, which they said isn’t working.

“Whatever’s going to happen is going to be a phase-in, just like it was under Obamacare. We’ll have some time to take a look at that,” said state Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, who added that she and many other GOP legislators in the state supported expanding Medicaid under the law to take advantage of federal aid.

Although the Democratic governor and the Republican president are adversaries in a federal lawsuit over Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, they didn’t have a chance to clash verbally during the meeting. Trump took eight questions from the governors, but the only Democrat who got a chance to ask a question was Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

That question centered on immigration and whether Trump could offer any assurances to young adults brought to the country without documentation when they were children that they would not be deported. Trump replied that in phase one, only those with criminal convictions or members of gangs would be deported.

That doesn’t do anything to ease “an enormous blanket of fear” in immigrant communities, Inslee said. “He only described that as phase one. That would suggest there are other phases coming.”

Inslee, an ally of President Barack Obama and a supporter of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, was a critic of candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign. But Monday was the first time he saw Trump in person. The meeting with the governors left him with a “deep concern” about how some issues are being handled by the administration, he said.

“I’m more concerned about that now than when I landed Thursday night” in Washington, D.C., Inslee said.

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