But now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House, this is proving easier said than done. Not only can the GOP conference not agree on what kind of system should replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some are beginning to rise to the defense of the laws’ core protections.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the chief deputy majority whip in the House, told reporters Wednesday that a new proposal that would weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions is “a bridge too far for our members.”
McHenry, citing his own past medical history and that of his family, is now arguing against the weakening of certain Obamacare regulations, which he called “really important protections.”
“I was once in the individual market, for a period of time in my 20s, and my family’s medical history is really bad,” he said. “So my understanding of the impact of insurance regulations is real. I believe I’m a conservative, but I remember the really bad practices in the insurance marketplace prior to the ACA passing.”
McHenry’s comments come after two days of White House officials holding closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill to push Republicans to take another stab at repealing the ACA—this time floating a compromise proposal aimed at getting moderates and conservatives to come together.
That plan involves nominally keeping Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits (EHB) rule in place but allowing states to apply for waivers permitting insurance plans that don’t cover things like maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health, and addiction treatment. They also proposed allowing states to waive Obamacare’s community ratings rule, which prevents insurance companies from hiking patients’ premiums based on geographic location or health status.
“When you talk about guaranteed issue, medical underwriting and community rating, those things in tandem work as no discrimination against pre-existing conditions—which a large number of people have pledged to not undo,” McHenry explained. “That becomes a real challenge.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.