House GOP health bill changes exempt members of Congress

A new amendment to the House Republicans' ObamaCare replacement bill exempts members of Congress and their staff from its effects. 

The new changes to the bill would allow states to apply for waivers for certain ObamaCare provisions, such as a ban on insurers charging premiums based on a customer's health and the requirement that insurers' basic health plans cover certain services, like prescription drugs and mental health. 

The GOP amendment exempts members of Congress and their staffs to ensure that they will still be protected by those ObamaCare provisions. 

The exemption was flagged by health law professor Tim Jost. 

Democrats quickly jumped on the development, arguing that Republicans are willing to take away protections for the general public, but not themselves. 

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"The best evidence yet that the new GOP repeal plan is a disaster for people’s health care is that the GOP exempted members of Congress from living under it,” said Leslie Dach, director of the Protect Our Care Campaign, one of the main groups fighting repeal. 

Rep. Thomas MacArthur (R-N.J.) is working with GOP leadership to get rid of the language, according to a GOP aide. MacArthur helped craft the new compromise with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the leader of the House Freedom Caucus.

"Congressman MacArthur does not believe Members of Congress or their staff should receive special treatment and is working with House Leadership to make absolutely clear that Members of Congress and staff are subject to the same rules, provisions, and protections as all other Americans," said Camille Gallow, a spokeswoman for MacArthur.

Separately, a GOP aide said separate legislation would be introduced to fix the language, which the aide said was added by the Senate Budget Committee. 

Senate GOP sources, though, disputed that statement, and said it was not the Senate Budget Committee that added the language. 

The MacArthur-Meadows language is helping to woo some conservatives, who argue that the ObamaCare regulations are driving up premium costs and note that high-risk pools would be able to fill the gap. 

However, many Republican moderates remain opposed to the bill. 

A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week found that 70 percent of the public wants pre-existing condition protections to apply nationwide and not be up to each state.