10 players to watch on ObamaCare

10 players to watch on ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

• Republicans are wrestling with the difficult task of how to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare.

The party remains divided on many central questions: How long should repeal take? Should the Medicaid expansion be abolished? And should some of the taxes in ­ObamaCare be kept to help pay for a new coverage option?

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As President Trump, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanWounded Ryan faces new battle Can Trump rebound after failure on healthcare bill? Trump: Dems ‘will make a deal’ on healthcare MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPath to 60 narrows for Trump pick Dems delay Senate panel vote on Supreme Court nominee This week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat MORE (R-Ky.) seek to build consensus on the path forward, here are 10 of the biggest players to watch.  

 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderPrice faces unwanted task of administering ObamaCare Overnight Regulation: Trump's Labor nominee hints at updating overtime rule Trump's Labor pick signals support for overtime pay hike MORE (R-Tenn.)

Alexander is helping to lead the Senate’s ­ObamaCare efforts as chairman of the Senate Health Committee. Adopting a pragmatic tone, Alexander has touted the “repair” of ­ObamaCare rather than repeal and called for targeted actions to make the individual market more stable.

“We can repair the individual market, which is a good place to start,” Alexander said at a hearing he held earlier this month.

Alexander has expressed hope about working with Democrats on the issue, but the polarized politics of ­ObamaCare could make that all but impossible. Still, Alexander recently cited a letter from Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineTrump supporters call for Kaine's son and other protesters to be prosecuted Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight MORE (D-Va.) offering to work on improvements to the law.

 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)

Meadows is among those calling for a speedy repeal of ­ObamaCare; as chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, his voice carries weight.

Conservatives are growing impatient with the pace of repeal and replace efforts. Meadows, along with his predecessor as Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), recently released a statement calling on Republican leaders to bring a repeal bill to a vote quickly.

They also warned the repeal legislation should not be watered down from what passed the House in 2015.

“There’s no reason we should put anything less on President Trump’s desk than we put on President Obama’s now that we know it will be signed into law,” Meadows and Jordan said.  

 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price

Price is taking the helm of the administration’s healthcare efforts after a drawn-out confirmation battle.

One of the first actions his department appears ready to take is finishing a regulation on ­ObamaCare “market stabilization.” That regulation is likely to include several tweaks that would help insurance companies, including a crackdown on people gaming the system through extra signup periods.

The rule could help prevent insurers from bailing out of the ­ObamaCare market, buying time for the replacement effort.

Beyond that, Price could take actions to change central aspects of the law, like weakening enforcement of the mandate for people to get coverage. Trump has also indicated he could help shape a replacement plan, saying last month that his administration would release a plan after Price’s confirmation.

 

Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerWith GOP’s healthcare bill on ice, Dems go on offense Red-state Dems in Supreme Court pressure cooker This week: House GOP faces make-or-break moment on ObamaCare MORE (R-Nev.)

Two big reasons to watch Heller: He is one of the few Democratic targets in the 2018 elections, and he comes from a state that accepted ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Republican senators from states that accepted the Medicaid expansion are grappling with whether to try to salvage it under repeal. They met last week to start discussing their options.

During Price’s confirmation hearing, Heller expressed his worries about people losing coverage if the Medicaid expansion is repealed. Under the expansion, coverage is available to adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsThis week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing MORE (R-Maine)

The centrist senator is a player to watch on any number of issues, but perhaps none more so than ­ObamaCare.

She has opposed voting to repeal the healthcare law before a replacement plan is ready. Collins has also expressed reservations about defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the repeal bill, something Ryan has called for.

The senator has introduced a replacement plan with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would allow states to keep ­ObamaCare if they decided against moving to a new system. That plan has drawn fire from conservatives, who say ­ObamaCare must be wiped from the books.

 

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Walden’s panel, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is at the forefront of the repeal effort. To meet the GOP’s aggressive timeline, the panel is looking to consider an ­ObamaCare bill on March 1.

Like Alexander, Walden has treaded carefully when asked how far the GOP will go in repealing ­ObamaCare. “There are some of these provisions in the law that probably will stay,” he said.

He has introduced a bill aimed at maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, though the details have yet to be worked out. 

 

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSenate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro Overnight Defense: Civilian casualties raise questions about rules of engagement | Air Force nominee set for hearing | Senate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro Feehery: Freedom Caucus follies MORE (R-Ky.)

Conservative lawmakers and outside conservative groups have been rallying around Paul’s replacement plan, which he introduced last month.

The plan centers on a tax credit and expansion of health savings accounts to help people afford health insurance, while repealing the core aspects of ­ObamaCare. 

Paul has also been pushing to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare at the same time. Last month, he tweeted that Trump called him to express support for the concept.

 

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro GOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare GOP senator: I'm ready to work with Trump, Dems on healthcare MORE (R-Tenn.)

The Foreign Relations Committee chairman has emerged as something of a skeptic of Republicans’ course on repeal and replace.

He drew a headline in the liberal Huffington Post last week when he said of GOP ­ObamaCare replacement efforts: “To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now.”

Corker is also one of a handful of Republicans questioning whether it would be wise to repeal all of ­ObamaCare’s taxes right away, given that it would deprive them of revenue to spend on a replacement. 

 

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

The first-term senator and physician is amassing influence on healthcare issues.

Cassidy put forward the relatively centrist ­ObamaCare replacement plan along with Collins and is among those calling for ­ObamaCare’s taxes to remain in place in order to provide revenue for a replacement plan. “The revenue is essential,” Cassidy said when rolling out his plan. 

 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchCan Trump rebound after failure on healthcare bill? Overnight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer MORE (R-Utah)

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, Hatch has enormous power to shape ­ObamaCare’s repeal.

The veteran senator, who is up for reelection in 2018, has rebuffed the Republicans who are calling for some ­ObamaCare taxes to be kept.

“All of the ­ObamaCare taxes need to go as part of the repeal process,” Hatch said this month. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyPrice faces unwanted task of administering ObamaCare Spicer: White House 'driving the train' on tax reform Retailers get aggressive in fight over GOP tax plan MORE (R-Texas) has expressed a similar view.