Members of the House Freedom Caucus who initially opposed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) supported the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives on May 4, which includes amendments designed to lower health insurance premiums for most individuals.
The version that passed includes an amendment proposed by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) on April 25. The Freedom Caucus, which was instrumental in blocking AHCA in March, announced its support of the amended version on April 26. The amendment would let states apply for a federal waiver exempting them from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essential health benefits (EHB) and community rating mandates. (See story on p. 1.)
Obamacare’s EHB mandate requires insurers to cover a list of 10 health care services, including some that certain individuals cannot use, such as services for prenatal and maternity patients, mental illness, and substance-abuse disorders.
The ACA community rating mandate requires insurers to charge customers in a given geographical region the same premiums, making exceptions only for an individual’s age and smoker status.
Let’s Make a Deal
Most of the 27 members of the House Freedom Caucus opposed the earlier version of AHCA, which required all states to retain Obamacare’s EHB and community rating mandates. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) canceled a vote on that version of the bill on March 24. (See story on p. 5.)
Meadows says the group’s earlier stand against AHCA enabled them to negotiate removal of the mandates.
“Because the Freedom Caucus stood firm and demanded real changes, the AHCA will now allow greater freedom to states and bring down premiums for Americans,” Meadows told Health Care News. “There is more work to be done to improve it in the Senate, but it’s a far better bill today than it was a few short months ago because of conservatives’ commitment to keeping their promise to the American people.”
Room for Improvement
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, says the approved version of the bill vindicates the group’s earlier opposition.
“Our efforts in the House Freedom Caucus to hold the line and improve the American Health Care Act have paid off,” Jordan stated in a press release on April 25.
Freedom Caucus support of the House-approved bill is pragmatic, not idealistic, Jordan says.
“While I remain committed to replacing Obamacare entirely, I can support this new version of the bill moving forward,” Jordan said in the statement. “It [was] our best chance to pass a bill through the House that will actually reduce the cost of health insurance for everyday Americans.”
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Michael McGrady, “Congressional Libertarians Back Obamacare Replacement Act,” Health Care News, The Heartland Institute, April 5, 2017: https://heartland.org/news-opinion/news/congressional-libertarians-back-obamacare-replacement-act
Michael T. Hamilton, “GOP Must Change America’s View of Health Insurance,” Consumer Power Report, The Heartland Institute, March 21, 2017: https://heartland.org/news-opinion/news/gop-must-change-americas-view-of-health-insurance
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): https://meadows.house.gov/
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH): https://jordan.house.gov
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