On CNBC, Portman Discusses Health Care, Tax & Regulatory Reform, and North Korea

June 26, 2017 | Press Releases

Today, Senator Portman co-hosted Squawk Box on CNBC. Portman discussed the Senate draft health care bill, tax reform, regulatory reform, North Korea and more during the hour-long appearance. 

Excerpts and videos can be found below.


Well it makes an overall reform of Medicaid, giving it back to the states, more flexibility, I think that’s a good thing actually, but then it cuts it back in terms of the federal share to the point that I think it’s very difficult to imagine the people who are now getting the kind of coverage that they need, particularly with regard to treatment on the opioid issue will be able to continue to have it. So in Ohio, as an example, expanded Medicaid, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, 50 percent of our cost is mental health and substance abuse treatment. And so we need to figure out a way to deal with that. I do think we can make some changes to the House bill to address that but we need to see where this Senate bill comes out. 

“When Anthem made its decision two weeks ago, you’re right, 18 counties end up with not a single insurer on the individual market, including the exchanges. Another 27 counties we think have just one insurer. And several other counties have two but are going to one soon, I believe, depending on what happens with this bill. So I do think there are things that can and should be done right now to stabilize the insurance market and I think the legislation that the Senate is putting together is frankly better than the House bill in terms of providing that stabilized market, because it provides more funding for these companies to be able to stay in the market or in some cases to come back in. And that’s really important because in my home state, as you say, we have a lot less choice with these insurers being out, some people literally with no choice, and we also have rising premiums and copays and deductibles as other states do, in part because of that. So that part of the legislation, which I think is sort of the core of the Affordable Care Act, improvements, actually I think is pretty good. It’s the part of the legislation that deals with the Medicaid program where I have concerns


I think you find more consensus than you do even on the health care issues that we talked about because people realize that our tax code is broken, that it’s making it tougher for us to compete globally, that it’s hurting jobs and it’s hurting paychecks. In other words, the best thing about tax reform in my view is we can actually have the chance to get wages up, and that’s what all the economic analysis shows is that if you do the right kind of tax reform you can make American workers more competitive.”


I do think there’s more opportunity there to be bipartisan. I mentioned Senator Heitkamp’s and my bill called the Regulatory Accountability Act for instance. It’s now been marked up in committee meaning voted out of committee. It’s commonsense reform that says let’s go back to a cost benefit analysis and look at the most cost effective way to accomplish whatever the objective is, commonsense stuff like that. Ensuring that independent agencies, kind of the alphabet soup agencies like the SEC or FTC and others are included in a cost benefit analysis framework that they are not now. President Obama agreed with that by the way. So I think there’s an opportunity here to greatly improve our regulatory process going forward to make our regulations smarter so we can be more competitive in the global economy and so that we can put more people to work. 

“We’re hoping to have this to the floor within the next couple of months I’m hoping that late this summer or early in the fall we’ll have the opportunity to have a regulatory debate on the floor of the Senate. The legislation in a very similar form has already passed the House of Representatives, in fact it’s passed six times, once with 19 Democrats supporting it. So it has been more bipartisan than some of the other regulatory reform efforts and I think this is a great opportunity to give the economy a shot in the arm. And to help improve not just a number of jobs but the quality of jobs. In other words getting wages up. 


I think they need to be held accountable for what happened to Otto Warmbier. It was outrageous. He never should have been detained in the first place and then the mistreatment he received and not to tell people of his condition and have the opportunity for some health care to be able to come in and help him 16 months ago, practically, when his condition was clear to them so, yeah, they should be held to account for him and others detainees. There are three other Americans there now.

“I’m working on some things that I think are possible which is we already have sanctions on the country but we do not sanction everyone who does business with the country. In other words there’s ways to do secondary sanctions. That means China primarily because there are hundreds and some say thousands of Chinese companies doing business in North Korea. Some of which at least indirectly through dual technologies are helping in the development of their weapons program and I think there’s an opportunity here using the financial institutions that have business here and also have business in China to help put some pressure on but we need to tighten sanctions. 

“Sanctions would be on North Korea but it would be with regard to companies doing business in North Korea and that’s the question. Can we really get the international community to acknowledge this barbaric regime and the need for us to tighten the sanctions to avoid not just the Otto Warmbier tragedy but also this obvious threat that all of us face which is the nuclear weapons capability and now the means to deliver them.”