Moderates Remain Skeptical Of Latest Obamacare Repeal Deal

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30: Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Not long after conservative hardliners in the House signaled they would be supporting a new version of the GOP’s failed Obamacare repeal bill, the group of the conference’s moderates known as the Tuesday Group emerged from a meeting Wednesday skeptical of the proposed changes to the legislation, which would allow states to essentially gut the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions protections.

Many moderates, including those who were previous “yes” votes on the original bill, as well as those who had come out against it, said they would need to see more information about the proposed amendment. More concerning for Republicans hopeful for a deal on Obamacare repeal, some former “yes” votes said that they were now undecided on the larger legislation due to the changes.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. Most people don’t understand exactly what’s in the legislation,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) told reporters. “We need an analysis, we need an explanation of how this is all going to work.”

The amendment was worked out between Tuesday Group co-chair Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who was supportive of the original bill, and Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had led the conservative opposition to the previous iterations of the legislation. The proposal would allow states to opt out of certain  Affordable Care Act mandates on insurers, with some mandates able to be waived only if specific conditions were met.

The concession for moderates was that the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits requirement—which mandates 10 broad coverage areas insurers must offer—was no longer fully gutted as it was in the original bill but rather optional for states. However, at least a dozen moderates opposed the original bill for other reasons, like how it structured its tax credits for insurance or how drastically it scaled back Medicaid. Those issues weren’t addressed in the new deal.

“Too many people have viewed this health care reform process as a speed bump on the road to tax reform,’ said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a co-chair of the Tuesday Group who opposed the original bill and the new changes as well.

Dent said that no whip count had been conducted in the Tuesday Group meeting, but it was his sense that the moderates who were “no’s” before remained no.

Other previous “no” votes, such as Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) said their positions remained unchanged Wednesday.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who came out against the original bill before it was pulled from the floor, said that she did not have “adequate” information yet to say whether the amendment would change her vote.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) (pictured) said he was previously yes on the bill but now considers himself undecided with the new changes.

“With the prior bill, I supported that publicly before it went down. This is a different twist and I have got to re-examine it,” he said.

The House Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that its was supportive of the amended health care bill—meaning that at least 80 percent of its 40-or-so members were likely to vote for it—as outside conservative groups withdrew their opposition to the legislation given the proposed changes.

Asked about the pressure now on the moderates to fall in line, Dent said, “I can deal with pressure any way it comes.”

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