Published: Fri, April 28, 2017
Finance | By Laverne Griffith

Conservatives back revised health bill, GOP moderates balk


WASHINGTON ― White House officials are ratcheting up pressure on House Republicans to vote this week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, even though there is no bill, there is no agreement on what that bill should look like, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has signaled no interest in rushing to vote on legislation that will fail.

In an interview with reporters Wednesday, MacArthur defended his amendment.

House Republican leaders huddled with more moderate members of the GOP caucus for two hours Wednesday night to drum up support for the latest version of the American Health Care Act, after the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus threw its support behind the newly amended health-care bill on Wednesday and influential outside conservative groups dropped their opposition.

The amendment was negotiated between Tuesday Group leader Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, with consultation from the White House and House leadership.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives had tried to move a healthcare overhaul bill last month to make good on one of President Donald Trump's top campaign promises, but opposition from the party's conservative ranks helped doom the effort.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, denounced this portion of the bill. "Tom MacArthur explained his amendment - I do believe we're trying very desperately as a team to get to yes". And of the 30 members of this group for whom we have an ideological score, 16 were more moderate than the average House Republican. Enten calculates that 29 Republican senators, more than half the caucus, are more moderate on balance than the average House Republican, and yet those senators are now on the verge of being handed a bill that's more conservative than the first unpopular iteration was.

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"The whip is going to be talking to members who were in the lean-no or the undecided or the no category over the next day or so to see where they are", he told reporters following the House Republican conference meeting Wednesday. "Nobody should take any vote for granted". John McCain, R-Ariz., said that failing to do so is the GOP's fault. "I think the Freedom Caucus wanted restrictions on the pre-exisiting conditions and that's what they got".

The amendment would also allow insurers to charge enrollees in their 50s and early 60s more than younger ones.

"All states should be required to do the same thing", said Bayonni Handy-Baker of Killeen, Texas, who supports nationwide requirements on both preexisting conditions and minimum benefits for insurance plans. Their benefits package could get skimpier as Obamacares essential health benefits requirement may no longer apply either.

The survey finds 62 percent of Americans also support keeping federal requirements that many plans cover preventive services, maternity and pediatric care, hospitalization and prescription drugs, while 33 percent say states should decide what, if any, minimum coverage should be provided. The original GOP repeal bill would have widened that ratio to five-to-one.

While MacArthur stressed that states would not be allowed to waive the Obamacare rule that requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions, health policy experts say the amendment would greatly affect those who are sick or have had medical issues in the past. While there are indications that the revisions appeal to conservatives, some of them were still balking and there was little evidence that it was winning backing from moderates, leaving the measure's fate uncertain.

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