June 25, 2017

The health-care proposal to replace ObamaCare expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week is insufficiently conservative, said Tim Phillips, president of Americans For Prosperity, a political outfit in the Koch brothers' network, in an Associated Press report published Sunday.

Phillips said the Koch network is "disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic toward a full repeal or a broader rollback of this law, ObamaCare," labeling the Senate bill "a slight nip and tuck" of current law which changes so little it is "immoral." To net his support, he added, the "Senate bill needs to get better."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he is willing to alter the health-care legislation to make it viable, but he faces incompatible demands from across the political spectrum. Bonnie Kristian

June 25, 2017

Conservative Republican opponents of the GOP's health-care proposal in the Senate have labeled the ObamaCare replacement package "ObamaCare lite," but the bill is taking fire from the center and left, too.

A group of moderate Republican senators are raising concerns about proposed Medicaid changes that would mean significantly less federal funding in their states. The fifth Republican senator to announce his opposition to the bill, Nevada's Dean Heller, specifically cited Medicaid in his Friday announcement that his vote is currently a "no." Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have not formally opposed the legislation so far, but both centrist Republicans have mentioned similar considerations.

Meanwhile, progressive critics warn the legislation could produce a "death spiral" in insurance markets in which premiums rise as healthier people — no longer bound by ObamaCare's individual mandate — drop coverage, producing a cycle of even higher premiums and fewer insurance customers.

President Trump fired back at critics twice on Twitter Saturday, noting premium hikes under the current system and writing that he "cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!" The health-care bill can't pass the Senate if more than two Republicans vote against it. Bonnie Kristian

June 6, 2017

Senate Republicans want to vote on health-care legislation before the July 4 break, but they have some obstacles to overcome. The first is they don't have a bill. On Tuesday, the Senate GOP caucus will meet to discuss the early draft being written by a working group of 13 senators, and test the waters for how to finish legislation that can get the support of 50 Senate Republicans. The second problem is time: To get a vote by June 30, the start of the July 4 break, Politico notes, the Senate has about 10 working days to finalize the bill and submit it to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.

The House has not sent its version of the American Health Care Act to the Senate yet, because the Senate parliamentarian is still determining if the House bill meets the strict requirements to allow Senate Republicans to pass their version with a simple majority. Democrats are arguing that it doesn't, in part because of a provision that could affect Native Americans, and if the parliamentarian agrees with them, the House would need to amend the AHCA and vote on it again. The ruling could come this week. That's the third problem, and the fourth is that it isn't clear Senate Republicans can agree on a plan that would get 50 votes.

On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he doesn't think Republicans will pass major health-care legislation this year. "I just don't think we can put it together among ourselves," he told Bloomberg News. "I don't think this gets better over time," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told Politico. "So my personal view is we've got until now and the Fourth of July to decide if the votes are there or not. And I hope they are." With health care mucking up an already busy legislative agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) just "wants to be done with this one way or another," a person familiar with the negotiations tells Politico, even if that means bringing up for a vote a bill that fails. Peter Weber

May 25, 2017

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) reportedly broke down in tears after hearing that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday predicted that premiums would go up for people with pre-existing conditions and some could be priced out of the market entirely under the American Health Care Act, Independent Journal Review reports.

The new CBO score took into account amendments made to the bill by Republicans to pass it through the House. That included an amendment that allows states "to repeal certain regulations of the Affordable Care Act — namely Essential Health Benefits (EHBs), which created a federal standard for what health insurance plans should cover, and community ratings, which prevented health insurers from charging individuals with pre-existing conditions higher prices for coverage," IJR writes.

Meadows, who played a central role in pushing for the state waiver options, initially reacted to the CBO's report by calling it "good news," a sentiment echoed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said the AHCA would lower premiums and the deficit. But when asked about people with pre-existing conditions being potentially priced out of the market, IJR reports Meadows "seemed surprised" and read the relevant paragraph of the CBO report off a reporter's phone. "…People who are less healthy (including those with pre-existing or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all," the CBO predicted.

Meadows then got choked up: "Listen, I lost my sister to breast cancer," he said. "I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to pre-existing conditions, it's me. I'm not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody's sister or father because I wouldn't do it to myself."

He added: "In the end, we've got to make sure there's enough funding there to handle pre-existing conditions and drive down premiums. And if we can't do those three things, then we will have failed." Jeva Lange

March 14, 2017

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office quickly soured in the eyes of Republicans on Monday after the release of its report on the GOP's proposed replacement for ObamaCare, the American Health Care Act. Newt Gingrich led the charge on Fox News, claiming "they should abolish the Congressional Budget Office. It is corrupt. It is dishonest. I don't trust a single word they have published. And I don't believe them."

Fox’s Martha MacCallum pointed out that the head of the CBO is a Trump appointee. "I couldn't care less," Gingrich shot back. He added that the CBO's analysis was "disgusting."

The CBO found that the AHCA would result in 24 million more Americans going uninsured; by 2026, the CBO estimates that 52 million people would lack insurance under the GOP plan, compared to 28 million who would go uninsured under ObamaCare. Internal White House estimates were reportedly even bleaker. But while President Trump has praised the CBO in the past, Gingrich has been consistent, claiming before the inauguration that the CBO is "incompatible with the Trump era.”

Other Republicans also slammed the CBO, with HHS secretary Tom Price calling the report "just not believable" and Jeffrey Lord explaining on CNN, "We don't know what the weather is going to be. It's going to snow, but how much? We don't know. We don't trust weathermen. So why should we trust the CBO?" Jeva Lange

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