Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the chairman of the influential Republican Policy Committee, offered a new rationale for potentially backing some of the more popular concepts in the law: They've become important to people.
"We believe that the whole bill needs to be repealed," Price said. "That being said, there are some things that have been instituted that a lot of folks have begun to rely upon and plan -- make their family plans -- based upon. Twenty-six-year-olds being on their parents' insurance is one of them."
The remarks are the latest public manifestations of the party's gradual pivot over the last few weeks from lock-step opposition to Obamacare to a willingness to embrace its more popular provisions. The pivot comes as Republicans have been coming to grips with conceivably owning a wildly dysfunctional health care system if the Supreme Court grants them their wish in striking down some or all of the health care reform law as unconstitutional. In a shift unimaginable just a few weeks ago, some Republicans are publicly expressing support for the law's ban on insurers turning away sick patients, for permitting young adults to remain on a parent's policy until 26 and for closing the Medicare "doughnut hole."
Republicans are seeking to quell the still-fierce opposition to Obamacare from the conservative movement -- which detests the entire law -- by reaffirming that it must be fully repealed first. But faced with the question of what comes next, they are signaling that they don't believe it's ultimately tenable politically to turn back the clock for sick people and young adults.
"So there are wonderful ways to solve this in addition to -- or in place of -- what the president's bill did, especially in those two areas," said Price, the No. 5 House Republican and also a physician. "And that is to provide greater choice and options for citizens to make their own health care decisions."
GOP aides privately acknowledge the challenge the party faces. That's why lawmakers want to create some wiggle room after their years-long stance against the entirety of "Obamacare." Price and Roe's remarks echo those by Senate Republican Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO), tea party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and, more recently, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a leadership member who works on policy and strategy.
"Well, that's something that I and other Republicans have supported from the beginning," Barrasso told Fox News on Monday, when asked if he wants to save parts of the law like the under-26 provision. "And it should have been in an initial cooperative effort by Republicans and Democrats to actually lower the cost of health care, allow more people to be covered, and that's an important part of what we need to do in the future."
The GOP has yet to confront the economic reality that covering pre-existing conditions without some sort of mandate is widely seen by experts as problematic, if not economically untenable.