House speaks Paul Ryan of Wis. March 30, 2017. CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
House Republicans aren’t giving up on their failed health care bill.
Vice President Mike Pence, Budget Director Mike Mulvaney, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus met with with House Freedom Caucus Republicans on Monday night to find out what changes would be acceptable to the caucus, Politico reported. The caucus chairman, Rep. Mike Meadows (R-NC) said GOP lawmakers would see the text of a new health care bill within 24 hours. The White House also met with a few House Republicans from the more moderate Tuesday Group on Monday to see what changes they would be comfortable with.
Republican leaders failed to gather the necessary votes on their original health care bill last month because it didn’t go far enough for far-right conservatives — removing things like the provision requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions — and went too far for moderate Republicans, who weren’t as anxious to slash Medicaid.
Last week, Republicans recommitted to repealing and replacing Obamacare. After telling reporters that Obamacare would be the law of the land for the “foreseeable future” a few days earlier, Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans would keep pushing for a repeal. The following night, President Donald Trump said making a deal on health care would be “such an easy one.”
Politico reported that sources familiar with the discussions say that groups such as Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity, which fought against the original health care bill, were willing to work with the White House. When Republicans last pushed for a vote, Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham called it an “awful bill.” Many conservatives who opposed the bill called it “Obamacare-lite.”
Meadows said a tentative deal with the House Freedom Caucus would let states waive the essential health benefits requirement (EHB) and community rating regulations. The community rating provision requires that insurance companies charge the same price to people who are the same age.
Requirements to insure people with preexisting conditions would remain, but getting rid of these provisions would allow insurers to include less services on their plans and ultimately charge the sick more, making it far less usefuloverall. A person with a chronic illness would buy a plan, but it’s very likely that that person wouldn’t be able to afford the services they need if the EHB requirement were waived. If there were no community rating provision, health plans would also be able to charge a chronically ill person a lot more than they would today.
Far-right conservatives told Politico that they will accept a bill that retains the provision keeping children on their parents’ insurance until age 26 — a popular provision — if they can get rid of these other regulations.
Keeping two of the most popular Obamacare provisions may prevent moderates from leaving the talks entirely. Moderates have been pushing for adding more money to the high-risk pools, and the tentative deal explains in more detail how $115 billion in funding would be allocated to these pools, according to The Huffington Post. But getting rid of the community rating system may make it more difficult for moderates to sign on.
It’s unclear when Republican leaders would push for another vote on this legislation, but an administration source told Politico, “This is a level of urgency I haven’t seen out of them.” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) said he was optimistic that the bill could be brought up before the Easter recess.