Donald Trump's health secretary defends White House party for mostly white men

Republicans face criticism after hardly any women are present at healthcare bill celebration

Benjamin Kentish
Monday 08 May 2017 00:31
Trump's health secretary defends White House celebration photo of mostly white men because he saw two women

Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary has responded to criticism over an apparent lack of diversity at a White House party held to celebrate the US President’s new healthcare bill – by claiming at least two women were present.

Tom Price claimed several woman were “leading in this area of healthcare” after a photo of the gathering drew criticism for showing an almost entirely white, male crowd celebrating the passing of Mr Trump’s American Health Care Act, which opponents say will have a disproportionately negative impact on women.

Asked about the image during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Mr Price said: “Look at that picture: Congresswoman Diane Black, the chair of the Budget Committee – I was standing next to her. Seema Verma, the administrator of [Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services], I was standing right next to her.”

Quizzed by host Andrea Mitchell as to why he could only mention two women among a large group of men, Mr Price responded: “These are prominent individuals who are leading in this area of healthcare.

“The goal is to make certain that every single American – men, women, rich, poor, old, young – have the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their families, not that government forces them to buy. That’s the change.”

A different image of the event showed seven women standing among dozens of men.

Mr Trump’s American Health Care Act was passed by the House of Representatives last week with a majority of just four. It will now move to the Senate, where it is expected to encounter fresh opposition.

Republican members of the House of Representatives headed straight to the White House for a celebration after passing the bill.

The plan is the culmination of Mr Trump’s long-standing vow to scrap Obamacare – the name by which Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is commonly known.

Mr Obama’s policy promoted insurance cover for a range of conditions that only affect women, including maternity care, mammograms, cervical screenings and birth control.

In contrast, Mr Trump’s plan will once again allow insurance providers to charge higher premiums to Americans with pre-existing health conditions – something that was outlawed under Obamacare.

It means women who have gone through pregnancies or been the victim of rape or domestic violence could be forced to pay more, while those suffering from infertility issues or post-natal depression are also deemed to have a “pre-existing condition”.

One estimate suggests a past pregnancy would increase a woman’s insurance premium by $17,060 (£13,200) – a 425 per cent rise.

Mr Trump welcomed the bill’s progress and said his healthcare proposal was “a great plan [that] will get even better”.

"It could change a little bit, maybe even [get] better,” he said. “It's a very good bill right now. The premiums are going to come down very substantially; the deductibles are going to come down. It's going to be fantastic health care.

“We're going to have great health care very soon. Obamacare is failing, the insurance companies are leaving, [insurance provider] Aetna just announced they're out from Obamacare. Some states, you look at a lot of states, a lot of different states, you look at Tennessee, you look at Kentucky is now in trouble. Iowa's in trouble, the insurance companies are all leaving."

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