David Jolly won a special House election in Florida in 2014 as a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act, but then lost his seat to Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) in November. On Monday night, he told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell that when he was unexpectedly unemployed in January, with a pre-existing condition, he realized that he was glad ObamaCare was the law of the land.
"While I ultimately chose a private-sector plan, I also knew in 2017, ObamaCare provided an exchange that was a safety net that wasn't there before," he said. "And that's why the politics of ObamaCare in 2017 are different than in 2013. I lost my doctor and I lost my plan in 2013, and I was angry about ObamaCare, and I ran for Congress. But in 2017, as an unemployed person with a pre-existing condition, I knew ObamaCare was there as a safety net if me and my wife needed it."
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) June 27, 2017
Jolly apparently isn't alone in his newfound appreciation, if not love, for the 2010 law. In its latest ObamaCare tracking poll, released Friday, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of U.S. adults had a favorable opinion of the law, "the first month that favorability has tipped over the 50 percent mark since Kaiser Family Foundation began tracking attitudes on the law in 2010," while the GOP replacement plan has become increasingly unpopular, with 55 percent disapproving versus 30 percent who approve. Senate GOP leaders hope to pass their replacement plan as early as this week, after the House GOP passed its version in May.
Also on MSNBC Monday night, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt and host Chris Hayes puzzled over why Republicans are not making a public case for their ObamaCare replacement bill, with the Senate version written behind closed doors before its rush toward a floor vote. Watch below. Peter Weber
McConnell allies give him better-than-even odds of getting his GOP health-care bill passed this week
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants the Senate to pass his health-care bill this week, before the July 4 break, and the next couple of days will be a test of his strategy to craft a major overhaul of the U.S. health-care system in secret and spring it on the Senate with no public hearings. He can afford to lose only two Republicans, and five have said they won't vote yes on the current version of the bill, with at least three others expressing strong reservations. Republican senators began listing their demands over the weekend.
McConnell's former chief of staff Josh Holmes compared his former boss' week to "a 747 landing on a suburban driveway," but one current McConnell staffer tells Jonathan Swan at Axios that McConnell has a 60 percent shot of passing the bill. Still, "most folks I've talked to in McConnell's orbit say it's more like a jump ball," Swan says, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is in that camp, telling ABC News This Week on Sunday that Republicans "have, at best, a 50-50 chance of passing this bill," odds he attributed to the "devastating" effects of the proposed legislation.
McConnell has some levers he will pull, however, and "Senate leaders have been trying to lock down Republican votes by funneling money to red states, engineering a special deal for Alaska, and arguing that they could insure more people at a lower cost than the House, which passed a repeal bill last month," The New York Times reports. The Chamber of Commerce supports the bill, but opposing it is a motley group that includes the Koch brothers organization Americans for Prosperity, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, medical groups, some Republican governors, and most of the health-care industry.
Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Sunday that the bill is on track for a Wednesday procedural vote, and possible passage late Thursday or early Friday, "but it's going to be close." Speaking at a Colorado retreat hosted by Charles Koch, Cornyn said that even if McConnell doesn't get a vote this week, the legislation is hardly dead. "I think August is the drop-dead line, about Aug. 1," he said. Axios' Swan said McConnell actually does need to pass the bill before the July 4 break, because "no senator I've spoken to thinks a bit of extra time spent with angry voters will make them more likely to support this bill." Peter Weber
House Republicans are pretty upset with Trump for trashing the health-care bill he pushed them to pass
President Trump threw himself into prodding the House to pass the American Health Care Act, then rewarded House Republicans with effusive praise at a White House ceremony directly after they pushed through the health-care overhaul with the narrowest of margins. So Trump's widely reported comments to Senate Republicans that the House version of the bill is "mean" and lacking in generosity bruised some feelings. Trump's comments are "having a lingering, and potentially devastating, effect on his credibility among House Republicans," reports Jonathan Swan at Axios. "Members are still talking about Trump's comment, and their frustration that he'd throw them under the bus is likely to damage his ability to negotiate on major items like infrastructure and tax reform."
Democrats are apparently rubbing salt in the wounds, with one Ways and Means Committee member ribbing GOP colleagues that Trump now agrees with the Democrats about their bill. Trump lobbied them an incredible amount, pushing them to gamble with an unpopular vote, one Republican tells Swan, so "for him to turn around and do this, it's stunning. I can't believe it." Peter Weber
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally began a process to bypass committee hearings and send a Senate Republican health-care bill directly to the floor for a vote by the July 4 recess, Tierney Sneed reports at Talking Points Memo. Republicans are writing their version of the House GOP's American Health Care Act in secret, and they emerged from a meeting on Tuesday more optimistic that they will have a plan that can attract at least 50 of 52 Republican votes, enough to pass the bill under budget reconciliation rules. On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) said that the Senate parliamentarian cleared the House version of the AHCA to be considered under reconciliation, removing one obstacle for Republicans.
Senate Republicans plan to submit a preliminary framework of their health-care plan to the Congressional Budget Office by the end of the week, which would allow a floor vote by the end of June, Politico reports. If they pass a health-care bill, it would be merged with the House version in a conference committee, and both chambers would have to vote again on the package that emerged. There was some speculation that McConnell would put up a vote on a bill he thought would fail, just to move on to other legislative priorities, but Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said no, "he sure as hell doesn't want to do that." Republicans are "in the back seat with Thelma and Louise and we need to get out of the car," he said. "So details matter, but we need to get out of the car. That was the pre-eminent message." Peter Weber
Rep. Tom MacArthur met with livid constituents for the first time since he resuscitated the GOP health bill
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) held his first town hall on Wednesday night since his amendment on pre-existing conditions revived the GOP health-care bill, leading to its passage in the House. He took questions from his constituents for nearly five hours in Willingboro, and it was not a friendly crowd — not that he'd expected it to be. Before the town hall, his office had noted that Willingboro is 73 percent black and had only given him 12 percent of its vote last fall, points he reiterated during the town hall.
MacArthur fielded a series of questions about President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey (he said he wasn't in favor of an independent investigation, yet, but he also said "I didn't come here to defend the president tonight"), but most of his constituents wanted to talk about health care. Many of them blamed him for, as one man put it, bringing the American Health Care Act "back from death." One woman shouted, "My blood will be on your hands," and when MacArthur said he was happy that ObamaCare expanded insurance coverage but "I'm looking at an insurance market that is collapsing," a man yelled out, "That's because you drilled holes in it!" There were a lot of calls for switching to a single-payer system.
Another constituent noted the AHCA includes big cuts to Medicaid and slightly bigger tax cuts that primarily benefit the super wealthy, giving as an example the $37,000 a year MacArthur, a former insurance executive, would save under the law. MacArthur disagreed with the assessment of the bill. "This isn't tax cuts for the rich — this is tax cuts for everybody!" he said, explaining that it zeroes out taxes and income on profits from stock investments. You can get a flavor of what The Washington Post's David Weigel called the "toxic" environment in the CNN report below. Peter Weber
After narrowly voting to approve the American Health Care Act last Thursday, House Republicans (and their Democratic colleagues) returned home to their districts for an 11-day break. While GOP leaders and the Trump administration are trying to beat back the narrative that their health-care bill would cost millions of Americans their health insurance and sharply raise prices for people with pre-existing conditions, some House Republicans faced more local versions of that battle back home. On Monday, the most high-profile AHCA clash was in Dubuque, Iowa, the home of Rep. Rod Blum (R).
On Monday afternoon, Blum sat down for an interview with reporter Josh Scheinblum of KCRG-TV Dubuque, but it didn't last long. When Scheinblum asked Blum why he was prescreening attendees to his four town halls this week, Blum explained he only wanted people to attend from his district, and when Scheinblum followed up with a question about out-of-district donors, Blum, 62, walked out.
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) May 9, 2017
Soon after that clip aired on local TV, Blum held his first town hall meeting in the gym of Dubuque Senior High School, and it was not a friendly crowd. Blum, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, fielded a lot of questions about the AHCA, which he voted for. He actually agreed with many constituents that the bill was rushed through and flawed, though his complaint was that it wouldn't kill off the Affordable Care Act comprehensively enough — he referred to the AHCA as TrumpCare several times, and also ObamaCare 2.0.
"The way Blum struggled Monday night to explain his vote — through the loud boos of rowdy, impolite, and infuriated constituents — is just a narrow sampling of the growing concern and confusion caused by Republican plans to revamp the nation's health-care system," says Ed O'Keefe at The Washington Post. You can read more about Blum's town hall at The Washington Post and watch some footage of the waving red signs at KCRG-TV9. Peter Weber
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has chosen his team to write the Senate Republican version of the American Health Care Act, and senators will apparently scrap the House version and start over. "This process will not be quick or simple or easy," McConnell said Monday. But the group of 13 senators McConnell has tapped for the task — including himself and his top two deputies — has raised eyebrows because, among other things, it includes 13 men and no women.
Robert Pear at The New York Times suggests that McConnell, a shrewd tactician, chose to include only men, including far-right Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), "to placate the right." But his picks "may have inadvertently created a dangerous alliance," Pear adds, between Republicans who are more moderate on health care, especially Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who came up with the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" for health-care legislation. If they band together, they just need one more Republican to effectively veto any bill — and between Medicaid and pre-existing conditions, there are AHCA skeptics in the Senate GOP caucus.
But it isn't just the homogeneity that has people talking; McConnell also left out several senators with potentially useful experience. Collins, for example, notes that she "spent five years in state government overseeing the Bureau of Insurance many years ago, and I think I can bring some experience to the debate that will be helpful." Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, owned one of the most successful Allstate insurance branches in South Carolina before running for Congress, Pear says.
And, of course, health care is an important topic for women as well as men, and the House AHCA would have some sticker shock for women in particular — if pregnancy were deemed a pre-existing condition, as allowed in the bill, a healthy 40-year-old woman could pay $17,060 more in premiums for her pregnancy, or up to 425 percent more than under ObamaCare, according to an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress. The AHCA also bans federal funding for Planned Parenthood for at least one year, and prohibits federal tax credits to be used on any insurance plan to covers abortion. Michelle Wolf took an acerbic look at the GOP's all-male health-care panel on Monday's Daily Show, and you can hear her thoughts below. Peter Weber
House Republicans scored a sort of hat trick of disapproval on Thursday, when the health industry's main two lobbying groups joined the major organizations for doctors and hospitals in urging significant changes to the health-care bill they just passed. This opposition from doctors, hospitals, and insurers is "a rare unifying moment," says The New York Times.
Insurers said they were concerned about the sharp cuts to Medicaid, reduced financial support for elderly people who buy their own insurance, as well as uncertainty over payments to help insurance companies cover low-income customers. "The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage," Marilyn B. Tavenner, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said in a statement.
The large majority of health-related industries wanted changes to the AHCA — medical device manufacturers support the bill and the pharmaceutical industry hasn't weighed in — because they'll lose customers and thus money, especially from the cuts to Medicaid and other changes that will lead to employers scaling back or dropping coverage for their employees. But they also expressed deep concerns about patients and the unintended consequences of some 24 million fewer people having health insurance, under Congressional Budget Office estimates.
"To me, this is not a reform," Michael Dowling, CEO of New York's Northwell Health system, tells The New York Times. "This is just a debacle." When lots of people suddenly lose their insurance at the same time the government cuts payments to cover lower-income patients, hospitals that server poorer patients "will just be drowning completely when this happens." The American Medical Association, AARP, American Hospital Association & Federation of American Hospitals, and associations focusing on specific diseases also oppose the law as written. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, and National Federation of Independent Business support the AHCA, while another group representing small-business owners, the Main Street Alliance, opposes it. Peter Weber