“The [GOP healthcare bill] is getting better and better”
“A lot of people like it.”
“Things are going very well.”
These are President Trump’s most recent pronouncements about the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA). Let’s hope for the sake of our nation’s seniors (and all Americans) that the President’s statements are wildly optimistic. The White House is pressuring Congress to vote on the AHCA this week – lest the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency expire without a single major legislative victory. Never mind that the healthcare of 24 million Americans hangs in the balance.
The National Committee and other seniors’ advocates rightly breathed a sigh of relief when the bill was pulled from the House floor last month for lack of GOP votes. The Republican healthcare bill would have gutted Medicaid, weakened Medicare, and allowed insurers to charge older Americans up to five times as much as young adults, among other travesties. But just when everyone thought the AHCA was dead, some House Republicans have revived it, zombie-like, to stalk Capitol Hill again. This week, representatives from the right-wing Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group let it be known that they were hovering around a deal to get the AHCA passed.
The supposed “deal” would amend the bill to allow states to seek waivers from requiring insurers to provide “essential benefits.” If a state (say a Red one, for instance), didn’t want insurers to be forced to cover hospitalization in all health plans, they could ask the Department of Health & Human Services (led by Obamacare nemesis Tom Price) for permission to waive that requirement. States could also request waivers so that insurance companies could force sicker patients into “high risk pools” where the premiums would be sky high. Meanwhile, all of the really harmful parts of the original bill for seniors would remain intact. President Trump says the GOP healthcare bill has “gotten really, really good.” But in truth, the latest changes make a really bad bill even worse.
Here’s the good news, though: all of this talk about a deal and bringing the AHCA to a vote within President Trump’s first 100 days may be magical thinking. Just because the head of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Tuesday Group co-chair, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), seem to be close to agreement does not guarantee that their members will fall in line, especially House moderates who probably know that the new amendment endangers essential benefits coverage and that high risk pools could cost their constituents dearly (which could cost these moderates dearly in the 2018 congressional elections). Congress-watchers have noted that there is no legislative language for the proposed amendment yet, and wonder how it could be produced so soon. Also, the plan to bring healthcare to a vote next week may be overly ambitious, considering the House must also craft an appropriations bill before April 28th to avoid a government shutdown. This is why Democratic sources on the Hill say “no way” is healthcare going to come up for a vote next week.
Here’s how National Politics Reporter M.J. Lee summed up the prospects for a quick vote on CNN this afternoon:
“If the White House wants a vote, they will have to win over many members of Congress who are skeptical about tackling this again.” – M.J. Lee, CNN
President Trump insists (to no one’s surprise) he wants it all: funding for his border wall AND passage of the American Health Care Act – a demand that, like his pronouncements that “a lot of people like” the GOP healthcare bill and “things are going very well,” are likely only loosely based on reality.