White House seeks quick vote on healthcare overhaul but hurdles remain – Reuters


WASHINGTON Top aides to President Donald Trump on Monday predicted the House of Representatives would move this week to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, but Republicans remained divided on how to protect sick Americans from insurance price hikes.

The White House is eager to move forward on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, to make good on a key campaign promise. Republicans tried but failed to pass a replacement bill in March in an embarrassing setback for the Trump administration.

Now lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow states to opt out of Obamacare protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions – provisions that force insurers to charge sick people and healthy people the same rates. It was unclear when or if a vote would be scheduled.

Trump insisted on Monday that the new bill would maintain the protections.

“I want it to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now,” he told Bloomberg News in an interview. “It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.”

Republican lawmakers have struggled to unite around legislation, with moderates and conservatives within the caucus divided over key provisions.

Even if a plan did pass the Republican-controlled House, it would face a tough fight in the Senate, where Republicans have a narrower majority and where some party senators have expressed misgivings about the House bill.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn on Monday said in separate interviews with CBS’s “This Morning” that they thought there were enough votes to pass the bill this week.

House Republican leaders were more cautious. As of Monday afternoon, no vote had been scheduled and backers of the healthcare proposal had not released legislative language.

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican conference, said Republican members needed time to understand new tweaks to the bill.

“We are having those member-to-members conversations right now,” McMorris Rodgers told Fox News.

The House is slated to break for a week starting on Thursday, but may leave town even earlier because Republicans appeared unlikely to have enough support to pass the healthcare bill, a Democratic congressional aide said on Monday afternoon.

MODERATES CONCERNED

The conservative House Freedom Caucus, which brought down the previous effort to pass a healthcare bill, has endorsed the new measure.

“This bill doesn’t get all the way there but it’s a good step and is … the best we can get out of the House right now,” said Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the voting bloc, on CNN.

But several moderate Republicans were either undecided or opposed the bill for fear that it would not protect those with pre-existing conditions and cause millions to lose health insurance.

Representative Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, said he still had problems with the latest plan and suspected there were not enough votes to pass it.

“Too many Americans are going to be without coverage,” Dent told MSNBC, adding that the plan could make things even worse for vulnerable Americans.

“Nothing has changed as far as I know,” said one moderate GOP aide. “Our sense is we’re not seeing a lot of moderates who are looking at this.”

Support from moderates will likely be needed to get the 216 votes in the House of Representatives Republicans need for passage.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Caren Bohan and Leslie Adler)

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