GOP Health Care Bill Still on Hold

Moderates balk at dropping coverage for pre-existing conditions

After striking a deal with the conservative Freedom Caucus, House GOP leaders appeared hopeful that a vote on their dormant health care bill would occur this week––but no such luck. Now moderates are refusing to approve the plan because it allows states to cut insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

House Republicans’ own website says that people should “never” be charged more for having a pre-existing condition, but the revised bill would allow just that in states that are granted a waiver from mandates imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), according to The Hill.

An amendment from Representative Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey), a moderate, proposed that states could apply for waivers from the “community rating,” which prevents people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. Without that protection, insurers could go back to charging those individuals exorbitant amounts for coverage, The Hill says.

Under the amendment, people would still be protected if they maintain “continuous coverage,” meaning they did not have a gap in coverage. And in order to receive the waivers, states would have to set up high-risk pools to help provide coverage for sick people.

Critics of high-risk pools say, however, that they were tried before the PPACA was enacted and were ineffective.

President Trump had promised to keep PPACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions. “It happens to be one of the strongest assets,” he told CBS’s “60 Minutes” shortly after the election.

Now GOP House leaders are struggling to gather enough moderate votes to reach the total of 216 needed to pass the amended bill, according to a report from Politico. But the holdouts are digging in, saying that the latest changes only moved the bill to the right and could put more Americans at risk of losing their health insurance. If this resistance holds, it would be enough to block PPACA repeal in the House—or to send the effort back to square one.

Representative Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), who supported the original repeal bill, told Politico that he is undecided but inclined to move the process forward.

“My biggest concern is that we’re changing things based on amendments written in back rooms, and not everyone knows what is said and what’s part of the deal,” he remarked.

Sources: The Hill; April 27, 2017; and Politico; April 27, 2017.