WH effort to revive health bill gets mixed reaction

Posted April 06, 2017

"I think between now and the recess, I think that there's a calm", said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, adding that he expects more after the Easter recess.

While there are members who say they crave agreement on health care, a deal seems unlikely while there are clear divisions within the House Republican Conference.

Eager to avoid another public debacle, Republicans insisted they won't move another health care bill so far along in the House unless they know it has the votes to win final passage.

Ryan said Wednesday that Republicans had been "90 percent" of the way to coalescing around the bill, but that they needed to be "95 percent" there for it to pass on the House floor. He said talks were in "the conceptual stage" and declined to predict a vote before Congress leaves town shortly for a two-week recess - when lawmakers could face antagonistic grilling from voters at town hall meetings. And Ryan hosted countless meetings in his ornate office in the Capitol in a bid to flip members from no to yes. "We can keep working this for weeks now", Ryan said. "That's occurring right now". "And if they don't want to cross the bridge, what more can you do?"

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, said he is troubled by the idea of changing the "community rating" provision - which sets the rules on pre-existing conditions.

Also at Monday's meeting were White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and budget director Mick Mulvaney. But several key players on the Hill and at the White House said talks have progressed.

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"It's on the back burner, but the boil is still going", said a senior administration official familiar with the Trump administration's strategy, who requested anonymity to speak more candidly.

But health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski said it would also open a "back door" to a system where the sick can get priced out of coverage. "We found a lot of common ground", he said, but would go into detail.

Meadows told reporters on Wednesday he had not yet heard from the White House about timing of the next negotiation session.

Another participant - Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. "I'm not saying I think it'll happen - I don't know - but I think it's possible".

But they failed to cut a deal on a White House proposal to let states seek federal permission to drop coverage mandates that President Barack Obama's health care law slapped on insurers. The current version of the GOP legislation would erase that coverage requirement but let states reimpose it themselves, language that is opposed by numerous party's moderates. Conservatives have argued that such restrictions inflate consumer costs, but supporters say it makes coverage accessible for those with costly medical conditions. Many of its roughly three dozen conservative members have opposed the Republican health care legislation for not doing enough to annul Obama's 2010 law. It would erase its tax fines for consumers who don't buy policies, federal aid to help many afford coverage and Medicaid expansion for additional poor people.

If major portions of Obamacare are repealed, there were discussions of creating a "backstop" so premiums do not spike for people with chronic illnesses in high-risk insurance pools.

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Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, was among several moderates warning that a quick vote would be counter-productive. "I want members freely expressing themselves so that people understand what it is that they think and what their concerns are".

Trump took aim at the Freedom Caucus in a series of tweets last week, pledging to "fight them" at the polls in the 2018 midterms.

Republican lawmakers have said the new push on healthcare would maintain Obamacare's essential health benefits clause listing services and care that insurers must cover.

Republican attempts to resurrect their Obamacare repeal efforts are stalling out once again, with moderates and hard-line conservatives blaming each other for their failure to make substantive progress. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who met with Trump on Sunday to discuss the new health care proposal. The proposal was getting mixed reviews from conservative and moderate lawmakers alike, raising questions about whether the legislative rescue mission would work.

"I don't want to put any specific odds on it or an artificial timeline", the speaker said.

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