(CNN) — A Republican lawmaker on Tuesday walked back his suggestion earlier in the day that low-income Americans may have to prioritize purchasing health care coverage over gadgets such as iPhones under Republicans’ Obamacare replacement plan.
The controversy began when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” that he wants low-income Americans to be able to have more access to health coverage.
“But access for lower income Americans doesn’t equal coverage,” Camerota said.
“Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want,” Chaffetz replied. “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.
“They’ve got to make those decisions themselves,” Chaffetz added.
Camerota asked if health care will “require some sacrifice” for lower-income Americans.
“We have to be able to lower the cost of health care,” he said. “We do think that with more choices, that you will get a better product at a lower price and that will be good for everybody on the entire spectrum of income.”
Chaffetz was swiftly rebuked for his comments on social media.
Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Indiana, later said on “CNN Newsroom” that Chaffetz’s comments were “unwarranted at this time.”
“We don’t want people to make choices in their life having to choose health care and leaving out other parts of their life that everyone else enjoys,” Bucshon said.
Later Tuesday morning, Chaffetz walked back his remarks.
“What we’re trying to say — and maybe I didn’t say it as smoothly as I possibly could — but people need to make a conscious choice and I believe in self-reliance,” he said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “And they’re going to have to make those decisions.”
House Republicans introduced a bill Monday that would scrap Obamacare’s individual mandate, a major pillar of the law, replacing it with refundable tax credits for individuals to purchase health insurance. It would also restructure Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood.
“With Medicaid reductions and smaller tax credits, this bill would clearly result in fewer people insured than under the ACA,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation told CNN Money. “The House GOP proposal seeks to reduce what the federal government spends on health care, and that inevitably means more people uninsured.
Chaffetz also told Camerota FBI Director James Comey has not responded to his attempts to discuss President Donald Trump’s unverified allegation that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower phones.
Chaffetz said lawmakers plan to investigate Trump’s claims and that his attempts to reach Comey have been unsuccessful.
“I texted him,” Chaffetz said. “I said, ‘Please call me, if you can.'”
But Comey did not return Chaffetz’s call.
“No response,” he told Camerota. “But that’s not atypical.”