House conservative: “I think we can all get to yes” on AHCA

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Has there been significant progress on the stalled effort to repeal ObamaCare in the Republican-controlled House? One of the members who balked at the American Health Care Act (AHCA) told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on New Day that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Although the core AHCA remains “the same fundamental bill” that Dave Brat and his House Freedom Caucus rejected in March, a few “significant” amendments have been floated that could help them “get to yes” (via The Hill):

.@RepDaveBrat: New health care plan in GOP pipeline "the same fundamental bill" as one that faltered last month https://t.co/kK1lWALm5T

— New Day (@NewDay) April 21, 2017

A GOP healthcare measure in the works is the “same fundamental bill” as the one that failed last month, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said Friday.

“It’s not really a new bill – it’s the same fundamental bill, but a few pretty significant amendments to it,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.” He said the new plan, the text of which has not been written yet, would lower the cost of health insurance and return responsibility to individual states. …

“That language is not that hard to come up with,” he said. “It just allows states to opt out of some of the regs to bring down price. And so those are two of the big pieces. A couple little pieces on the regulatory framework, and then I think we can all get to yes.”

Brat seems pretty cheery about the chances of a grand compromise with the “Tuesday Group,” the caucus of Republican moderates that want to ensure a transition that keeps as much coverage in place as possible. Brat tells Cuomo that the two caucuses actually get along well, and that reports of friction are a media fantasy. Well, maaaaayyyyybeeee, but both sides have been pointing fingers all along, as has Donald Trump at the White House, who accused the Freedom Caucus of perpetuating ObamaCare.

Yesterday, though, Trump also sounded optimistic about the prospects for AHCA passage in the House, telling reporters that “we’re doing very well on health care” as the bill is “evolving.” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who has backed the AHCA all along, wasn’t quite as sanguine about an imminent vote:

But in a phone interview with CNN Thursday morning, Cole also cautioned that there are a lot of mixed feelings across the conference among members and aides on whether this effort could be any more successful than the first time. Much of the concern continues to center on gutting Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

“It’s amazing the diverse things you hear from different people,” Cole said, noting the responses range from “‘it’s hopeless’ to ‘Oh, it’s going to get there.'”

The colleagues he has spoken with appear “cautiously optimistic,” Cole added. “Some of the folks in leadership — they’ve been burned so many times they’re afraid to be optimistic,” he said.

One problem is that no one has actually seen the amendments, at least not in legislative-language form. They have been discussed conceptually, and ABC and Politico reported earlier today that the proposal took a more solid form over the last day or so:

House Republicans, who have spent the last two weeks quietly negotiating a GOP health care proposal, on Thursday floated a carefully crafted amendment to the bill that failed several weeks ago, and some say it could be the key to getting the measure passed. …

The proposed amendment comes from moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who has led talks on tweaking the health care bill with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows. It would make essential health benefits — requiring plans to cover things like prescription drugs, maternity care and mental health services — the federal standard but offer limited waivers to states that want to do things differently and can prove that doing so would lower the cost of health care or increase coverage.

States could also apply for limited waivers from the community rating provision of Obamacare — which requires insurers to cover people with existing conditions — as long as those states create and fund a high-risk coverage pool for affected consumers.

The waiver would effectively undermine Obamacare’s existing conditions mandate, according to health care experts, because it would nullify the requirement that insurers offer coverage in a given area at the same price, regardless of health status.

Some of these changes have had enough prior discussion to get a general idea of what the legislative language would be, but that was also true of the AHCA a couple of weeks before its scheduled vote, Chris Cillizza reminds readers:

Try to think all the way back to March 7 — it was more than a month ago, I know — when House Republicans introduced their much-ballyhooed American Health Care Act. Within days of its introduction, the legislation was doomed — as GOP members who hadn’t been part of the behind-closed-doors crafting of the bill rebelled against this provision or that provision.

Sound familiar? A bill crafted by a small subset of House Republicans? CHECK. Unseen, at the moment, by the bulk of the GOP conference? CHECK. Unbridled optimism without a ton of evidence to account for it? CHECK.

No one knows that better than Brat and his HFC colleagues, though, and they’d have the most reason for skepticism about amendment language. If he’s feeling more optimistic, then perhaps that’s a signal that Republican leadership may be succeeding in finally herding the cats on the AHCA. Don’t bet on the rodeo taking place by mid-week, though.

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