After meeting with Trump, governors say he's crafting his own ObamaCare plan

After meeting with Trump, governors say he's crafting his own ObamaCare plan
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President Trump told governors at a meeting at the White House Monday that his administration will put forward its own ObamaCare replacement plan within a few weeks, according to two governors who attended the meeting.

The message came in one of several meetings between the administration, lawmakers and top state officials as Republicans try to find a path forward on ObamaCare, particularly the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Several Republican governors and lawmakers from states that accepted the expansion are looking to protect it, creating a thorny issue for the GOP.

It appears governors will have to react to a White House plan along with congressional efforts, given Trump’s comments on Monday.   

“The way I felt, I think Secretary [of Health and Human Services Tom] Price was going to be coming up with a plan,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) told a small group of reporters on Monday after returning from the White House meeting.

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“I felt that way, didn’t you, Brian? It was pretty clear,” McAuliffe said, referring to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who was standing next to him.

Sandoval then said “yes” and indicated the message was that the administration plan would be ready “within a few weeks.”

McAuliffe said Price, who was in the meeting, mentioned the plan would be ready in three weeks. Trump replied, “No, I want it in two,” according to McAuliffe.

“So, poor Tom Price,” McAuliffe added.

There has been some confusion as to whether the administration is putting forward its own plan or whether Trump, in a series of past statements referring to a coming plan, has been referring to joint efforts with congressional Republicans.

Congressional Republicans are looking to move forward with committee markups on legislation in the House within a few weeks.

A separate plan from the White House could throw a curveball into the process and shift the debate.

But congressional Republicans themselves are still grappling with a range of issues, with Medicaid expansion among the most prominent.

An outline of a proposal that House Republicans distributed to rank-and-file lawmakers earlier this month called for effectively ending the Medicaid expansion by abolishing, after some transition period, the federal funds that allow for it.

But Republican lawmakers told governors on Monday that that draft “does not reflect current thinking,” according to Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOvernight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid Cornyn floats conference of House, Senate healthcare bills Senate GOP: McCain may return for ObamaCare vote Tuesday MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, who attended the meeting.

Lawmakers declined to say, however, what substantial changes had been made to their plans for Medicaid expansion since the draft was circulated.

ObamaCare gives states the option to expand eligibility for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Repeal of the expansion would jeopardize coverage for the 11 million people who have gained it through the ObamaCare provision.  

That is worrying some governors and GOP lawmakers. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), for example, has been a vocal defender of the Medicaid expansion.

“I understand that there was an initial effort by House Republicans to, for example, phase out Medicaid expansion, which means phasing out coverage,” Kasich said on CNN after the House GOP draft was released. “That is a very, very bad idea, because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable.”

Sandoval is another Republican governor defending the Medicaid expansion. When asked if he was worried by the draft, he said he did not want to comment on congressional efforts until a final plan is released.

But he also suggested he would look to make sure his constituents could maintain coverage.

“My baseline is to protect the 300,000 people [in Nevada] that were part of the expansion and make sure that they continue to have coverage,” he said.

Sandoval said after a meeting with congressional Republicans Monday afternoon that they did not say whether they plan to keep the expansion. But he said he was encouraged that lawmakers and Secretary Price said they did not want people to lose coverage.

“There's no specificity and that's one of the things that I want to see, is specificity, but at least in terms of a general statement, [the message] is that no one's going to lose their coverage,” Sandoval said.

Cornyn, who represents a state that did not expand Medicaid, indicated Monday that lawmakers might look for different ways to get people coverage, such as a tax credit.

A tax credit to buy private coverage would be an adjustment, though, for low-income people who currently have almost all their costs covered by Medicaid.

“I don't think we ought to limit ourselves, maybe there's a way to also get people access to coverage through tax credits or some other mechanism,” Cornyn said.