Conservatives Back GOP Health Care Bill

House vote may come soon

The far-right House Freedom Caucus, which has been blocking President Trump’s plan to dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), has approved a new, more-conservative version of the GOP health care bill, according to The New York Times.

The caucus released the following statement:

“Over the past couple of months, House conservatives have worked tirelessly to improve the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to make it better for the American people. Due to improvements to the AHCA and the addition of Rep. Tom MacArthur’s proposed amendment, the House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position in support of the current proposal.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original AHCA. While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower health care costs. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill. Our work will continue until we fully repeal Obamacare.”

With conservatives falling into line, the bill now has a chance to get through the House, possibly as early as April 28, according to the Times.

The latest proposal, drafted by MacArthur, a moderate Republican from New Jersey, would allow states to obtain waivers from federal mandates that insurers cover certain “essential health benefits,” such as emergency services, maternity care, and mental health and substance abuse services, which many Republicans argue have driven up premiums.

The proposal would also permit states to obtain waivers allowing insurers to charge higher premiums based on a person’s “health status,” if a state had a program to help pay the largest claims or had a high-risk pool in which sick people could purchase health insurance.

To qualify for a waiver, a state would have to explain how it would advance at least one of five purposes: reducing average premiums for consumers; increasing the number of people with coverage; stabilizing the insurance market; increasing the choice of health plans; or stabilizing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.

But the AHCA still has a rocky road ahead. What’s good for members of the House Freedom Caucus is not necessarily going to please their more-moderate colleagues, the Times points out.

Moreover, Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the PPACA said the new House bill did nothing to ease their concerns about the deep cuts to Medicaid that remain in the legislation.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told the press that a new bill could come to the floor at some point if sufficient support surfaced. “We’ll vote on it when we get the votes,” he said.

Sources: The New York Times; April 26, 2017; and Congressman Mark Meadows; April 26, 2017.