GOP O’Care Repeal Defector Throws Hail Mary Pass To Bring Moderates Back On

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A prominent Republican who defected from the GOP’s Obamacare repeal legislation Tuesday is working on an amendment to win over himself and possibly other skeptical moderates, the Associated Press, Axios and the New York Times reported.

The idea is being floated by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a former Energy and Commerce chair who has worked on the health care legislation in the past and came out against the latest iteration of the repeal bill due to its weakening of pre-existing-condition protections. He is seeking an additional $8 billion over five years for the bill’s “Patient and State Stability Fund,” which offers states funding to set up high-risk pools or other market stabilization programs.

According to the Axios report, the funding would specifically be for consumers with pre-existing conditions who see their insurance premiums jacked up for not maintaining continuous coverage, as could be possible under the Republican plan.

It’s unclear whether the funding would undermine the point of the penalty to encourage consumers into maintaining insurance, or whether it would incentivize insurers to charge the penalty in order to sop up the public funding.

Other outlets described the measure more broadly as funding to boost high-risk pools, which Republicans say will act as a safety net for consumers who potentially couldn’t afford coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Upton’s office has not yet responded to TPM’s request for clarification. His aides told CQ he was slated to visit the White House this morning with other Republican lawmakers key to the House’s repeal effort.

The proposal is the latest of a series of ad hoc changes that the legislation, the American Health Care Act, has undergone in order to shore up the 216 votes it would need to pass the House. The bill was pulled dramatically from the floor in March, with GOP leadership facing a revolt from its hard-right as well as centrist factions. Last week, an amendment was unveiled allowing states to opt out of certain Affordable Care Act insurer mandates, including its requirement that plans offer coverage in 10 broad coverage areas and its ban on upping premiums based on an individual’s health states.

That change won over many of the conservative resisting the bill, but spooked the moderates, who worried it violated their vows to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions. GOP leaders have pointed to the high-risk pools states could set up using the bill’s stability fund as an answer to that concern. Most health care experts estimate that the cost of a high-risk pool to cover those with pre-existing conditions far exceeds what Republicans were offering in the legislation: $100 billion over 10 years. An extra $8 billion over five years is still short of the $20-$30 billion a year that has been the conservative estimate of what such a program would cost.

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