Expectations Already Being Lowered On Latest O’Care Repeal ‘Deal’

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Within hours of reports that the members of the the House GOP’s far-right and centrist wings had reached a deal that could bring a failed Obamacare repeal bill to life, expectations for quick and certain revival are already being lowered elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

A senior GOP aide told TPM via email that the question is whether the compromise proposal “can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time.”

“There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on,” the aide said, adding that a full-conference phone call scheduled for Saturday where the deal reportedly would be discussed  “was noticed last week and is routine before we come back in session.”

House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tuesday Group co-chair, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) are pushing an amendment to the repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act, which would allow for some limited waivers for states to opt out of certain Obamacare insurer mandates, the Huffington Post reported late Wednesday. According to a white paper outlining the proposal surfaced by Politico, the waivers would be available for states if they could prove their programs would “reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state, including the guarantee of coverage for persons with pre-existing medical conditions.”

Not all of Obamacare’s insurer mandates would be available for waivers, but states could opt out of its Essential Health Benefits requirement, according to the white paper, and its community ratings standards based on health status, but only if the state participated in a high-risk pool. The latter change would likely allow insurers to price sick people out of affording insurance. In theory, high-risk pools could then cover those individuals, but only if funded well above the funding levels currently provided in the legislation, health care experts have estimated. Otherwise, states would likely operate high-risk pools resembling those common in the pre-ACA days, when waiting periods, high deductibles, enrollment caps, exclusion of certain coverage areas and other obstacles were imposed to keep costs low.

It appears that the pressure to advance a quick deal on a heath care overhaul is coming from the White House, based on the reporting of the Washington Post’s Robert Costa.

Likewise, Politico reported that a White House official said that they are “close” to shoring up the votes needed to pass the bill, but “people don’t want to commit without seeing the text.”

A White House aide said he had no updates to share when asked by TPM about the administration’s involvement in this latest round of discussions.

The White House was spearheading previous negotiations around a potential compromise on the bill, which faltered before Easter recess.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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