House Republicans are floating a new amendment to their health care bill that would allow states to opt out of central consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, provided the states offer an alternative proposal that lowers premiums or provides for greater competition among health insurance providers.
Yesterday the amendment won support from the Freedom Caucus, a House Congressional caucus consisting of conservative and libertarian members who support limited government. The Freedom Caucus had withheld support from the earlier plan to repeal and replace the ACA, dubbed the American Health Care Act. House leaders had to pull their health care bill from a floor vote in March because they didn’t have enough support from conservative or moderate Republicans.
The Freedom Caucus endorsement could push the bill closer to passage. “While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs,” the Freedom Caucus said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill.”
Moderate Republicans are still on the fence with the revised plan out of concern it may be construed as reducing support for constituents with pre-existing conditions. Co-chair of the moderate Republican Tuesday Group, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), said “The question now is how many people does it take from yes to no.”
The compromise necessary to get Freedom Caucus support will also make Senate passage more difficult. Senate Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass the repeal measure.
“I don’t know if this bill is better” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “The worst thing we can do is replace it with a Republican-only alternative that doesn’t drive down costs, that doesn’t improve access to care.”
Democrats seized on language in the new GOP proposal that would allow insurance companies to charge people with preexisting conditions higher premiums, and noted that the plan appears to exempt members of Congress and their staff from potential waivers sought by states.
“Bringing their catastrophic bill back, repackaged but unchanged, will not make it any more likely to pass,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “Nor will it make it any less dangerous to the health of the American people.”