Eager for a victory, the White House is expressing confidence that a southern New Jersey congressman’s health care bill revision could emerge from the House soon.
U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd is the author of the amendment to the Republican health care bill that President Donald Trump touted last week as a “great plan.”
Trump said that progress was being for overhauling the nation’s health care system, though he provided no details.
“We have a good chance of getting it soon,” Trump said. “I’d like to say next week.”
The White House optimism is driven largely by a deal brokered by leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group aimed at giving states more flexibility to pull out of “Obamacare” provisions.
MacArthur, who’s district includes Burlington County and parts of Ocean County, is a co-chair of the Tuesday Group and one of the lawmakers leading the charge to get healthcare reform back into the spotlight.
On Thursday, he introduced his proposed amendment to the American Health Care Act.
“Throughout this negotiation process Congressman MacArthur has been fighting to protect the most vulnerable Americans,” a statement on MacArthur’s Facebook page read. “He has insisted during these discussions that any legislation must have protections for pre-existing conditions. This amendment will make coverage of pre-existing conditions sacrosanct for all Americans and ensures essential health benefits remains the federal standard.”
MacArthur was one of the most vocal voices supporting the AHCA when lawmakers tried to pass the bill last month.
A senior White House official told the Associated Press that it was unclear how many votes Republicans had, but said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told the White House that a vote could come together quickly.
Yet GOP lawmakers and aides to party leaders, conservatives and moderates alike were skeptical that the House would vote next week on the health legislation. They cited the higher priority of passing a spending bill within days to avert a government shutdown, uncertainty over details of the developing health agreement and a need to sell it to lawmakers.
Trump said he planned to get “both” a health care deal and a spending bill.
Many Republicans also expressed doubts that the health care compromise would win over enough lawmakers to put the bill over the top, especially among moderates. The bill would repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law and replace it with less generous subsidies and eased insurance requirements.
The amendment would deliver a win to moderates by changing the GOP bill to restore Obama’s requirement that insurers cover specified services like maternity care. But in a bid for conservative support, states would be allowed to obtain federal waivers to abandon that obligation.
In addition, states could obtain waivers to an Obama prohibition against insurers charging sick customers higher premiums than consumers who are healthy — a change critics argue would make insurance unaffordable for many. To get those waivers, states would need to have high-risk pools — government-backed insurance for the most seriously ill people, a mechanism that has often failed for lack of sufficient financing.
Congressman Frank LoBiondo, R-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, who publicly opposed the ACHA last month, said that he is still firmly against the bill without seeing the actual text and an analysis of what effects it could have on South Jersey residents.
The Tuesday Group has roughly 50 members that include MacArthur and LoBiondo. They don’t necessarily vote as a bloc, and it is unclear how many colleagues MacArthur would bring with him to such an agreement.
The White House is anxious to pass legislation quickly, partly because Trump will likely hit his 100th day in office without having signed a major piece of legislation.
In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, budget chief Mick Mulvaney said he was surprised at “the toxicity levels” that have divided the GOP over health care and hoped lawmakers’ two-week break would prove “healing.”
But House GOP leaders face the same problem that’s plagued them for seven years of trying to concoct a plan for repealing Obama’s 2010 law: The party’s conservatives and moderates are at odds over how to do it. With Democrats solidly opposed, Republicans can lose no more than 21 House votes to prevail, and Ryan short-circuited a planned vote last month because more than that would have defected.
That was a major embarrassment to Ryan and Trump, and House leaders are loath to bring a revised health care bill to the House floor unless they are convinced it would pass.
Ryan sent a mixed message about the bill’s prospects in remarks Wednesday to reporters in London.
“It’s difficult to do. We’re very close,” he said, adding, “It’s just going to take us a little time.”
Staff Writer John DeRosier and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rep. MacArthur leading charge to revitalize healthcare reform | News