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April 5—2017 Health Care Reform: Trump aides & lawmakers hold talks to revive healthcare bill

As reported by Reuters, top White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, met with moderate and conservative House Republicans in an effort to revive a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). A scheduled vote on the previous bill to repeal and replace Obamacare was halted when it became apparent that there wasn’t sufficient support to pass the bill.

In the meeting with the moderate “Tuesday Group,” White House officials said the new plan would preserve Obamacare’s essential health benefits clause, but that states could apply for a waiver if they could show that it would improve coverage and reduce costs. The essential health benefits that health insurance must provide include: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance abuse services; prescription drugs; rehabilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness care; and pediatric services. Congressman Mark Meadows, the leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he was intrigued by the provisions in the new plan, which would allow states to opt out of some of Obamacare’s mandates.

In particular, the revised proposal would allow states to opt out of the so-called community rating rule, which generally provides that insurers can’t charge sicker people more than others. This would seem to run counter to President Trump’s promise to uphold one of Obamacare’s most popular provisions: that insurers cannot discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.

The White House would like to see a revised bill come up for a vote as early as week’s end, before the House breaks for a spring recess; the text of the new proposal could be ready some time on Tuesday, lawmakers said. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) commented that the renewed healthcare effort was simply in the “conceptual stage right now.”

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