New healthcare bill sparks interest

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The White House and top House Republicans have worked with a key member of the Freedom Caucus to finalize a new Obamacare repeal and replace plan they hope will garner the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the highly-anticipated health legislation.

To pass the bill, the House will most likely need 15 to 20 new “yes” votes from House Freedom Caucus members, a goal one of its authors aims to deliver. Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) helped write the changes, which appear to be favored by some who opposed the prior version.

Most members of the Freedom Caucus opposed the first repeal bill because it did not repeal Obamacare regulations. In drafting its amendment, authors of the bill, including Vice President Mike Pence, granted various concessions to members of the Freedom Caucus as well as key conservative groups outside the White House.

The new bill offers items important to these moderate to conservative groups, such as waivers that allow states to opt out of major Obamacare requirements and allowing health plans to charge individuals based on health status and age. States can also opt out of enforcing a 30 percent surcharge on people who don’t keep insurance coverage, although they will strongly encourage people to maintain coverage because they could be charged more based on their health status.

In exchange for dropping the surcharge, states would be required to create a high-risk pool where older and sicker people could buy their coverage — again, most likely at a higher rate.

The amendment also includes a “default approval” for the state waivers, which appeals to many conservatives. This means although states’ waivers would be immediately approved, the Health and Human Services secretary would have 60 days to review applications and determine whether a state has met its obligations.

Having a large hurdle to secure a waiver is something for which moderate Republicans called. However, centrists may still be worried that this could lead to discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions as they can be charged more for insurance. To combat this worry, the new bill contains the following language: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.”

Although it is currently unclear if the entire Freedom Caucus will take an official position on the new bill, some members have told reporters they’re considering the change, bringing optimism to many Republican officials.

More on who will flip to a “yes” should be known to the public after the Freedom Caucus discusses the matter at a Wednesday evening meeting.

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