Republican lawmakers held a closed-door meeting last week to discuss a path forward for healthcare reform, according to an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post.
Topics discussed included a timeline for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), funding for a replacement coverage plan, Medicaid expansion, defunding Planned Parenthood, and the merits of healthcare reform ideas advanced by some Republicans.
- Based on the audio, it seems Republicans are not close to reaching a consensus on a replacement coverage plan as of yet.
Some Republican lawmakers are growing anxious over their party’s approach to healthcare reform. With midterm elections less than two years away, they weighed the political consequences of putting their support behind various policies that could be included in a potential replacement to the ACA.
A part of the discussion focused on funding for a replacement plan. Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) released his ACA replacement plan days after Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) released theirs.
Some Republicans have suggested that repealing the ACA could save nearly $500 billion over the next decade. However, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) suggested that these funds would be needed to pay for a replacement plan. There was also some debate about the possibility of collecting taxes on employer-sponsored health plans. “It sounds like we are going to be raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for these new credits,” Cassidy said.
A myriad of recently released reports have highlighted the numerous consequences an ACA repeal-and-replace could bring to the consumer market, as well as the hospital and insurance industries. But the government continues to push for a quick repeal. The ACA executive order President Donald Trump issued on his first day in office sets the stage for how his administration will begin to get rid of certain ACA provisions, such as the individual mandate. The order came days after Congress took a major step toward paving the way for dismantling the ACA with the spending blueprint it passed.
Several Republican healthcare reform plans have proposed offering refundable tax credits to cover some of the cost of health insurance. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) expressed concerns about many individuals and families not being able to afford to pay for premiums up front. There were also concerns over a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood as part of any repeal bill. The nonprofit women's health organization, known as the nation's largest abortion provider, launched a petition earlier this month to ask Congress for its support. “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill,” Rep. John Faso (R-NY) said.
In public, Republican lawmakers have attempted to ease concerns about disruption in the insurance market. However, the conversation that occurred in private seems to paint a different picture. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NY) used the same idiom (pull the rug out from under) Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), President Trump's nominee for HHS Secretary, used last week during a confirmation hearing when arguing that the goal isn't to have Americans lose their insurance coverage. “We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them,” MacArthur cautioned.