The White House prodded House Republican leaders to make last-minute tweaks to their Obamacare replacement bill Thursday aimed at protecting high-cost patients before lawmakers leave Washington for their two-week spring break.
The House Rules Committee will meet later in the day to consider an amendment offered by two House members to create a new risk-sharing fund for the seriously ill, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters at a news conference.
"Their amendment makes this a much better bill," Ryan said. "This amendment alone is real progress and it will help us build momentum toward delivering on our pledge to the country" to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The effort by the Rules Committee to rush to adopt an amendment to a bill -- without time for anyone to read it or any immediate intent to take the measure to the House floor -- is highly unusual. But it reflects the strong desire by the White House to demonstrate that the effort to repeal Obamacare isn’t dead, despite the embarrassing setback last month when Republican leaders had to pull the bill from the House floor right before a scheduled vote.
The provision is sponsored by Representatives Dave Schweikert of Arizona and Gary Palmer of Alabama, both members of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that some other House Republicans have been blaming for blocking a deal on a final bill.
While the amendment "was offered by two of our most conservative members," it is embraced by a broad part of the Republican conference, Ryan said. Lawmakers will continue working on further revisions, he said.
The proposal would give health insurers $15 billion in government funding to subsidize the care of high-cost patients from 2018 through 2026, helping lower premiums for others.
It would give Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price broad authority in determining how the payments are handed out, including which patients insurers would be reimbursed for and how much. Many aspects of the program would be worked out by HHS and aren’t detailed in the four-page amendment. In 2020, the program’s operation would be handed over to the states.
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Thursday morning at an event hosted by Politico that if the offers made over the last few days are in the final bill, then “the majority, if not all of the Freedom Caucus will vote for this bill.”
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