New hope for ObamaCare repeal? Key GOP lawmaker working on amendment

New hope for ObamaCare repeal? Key GOP lawmaker working on amendment
© Greg Nash

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is working on an amendment to the House GOP's ObamaCare replacement bill aimed at addressing his concerns about protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

The new changes being considered, confirmed by a House GOP aide, come a day after Upton made waves by announcing that he could not support the bill in its current form because it weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

GOP leaders are now looking at changes to get the bill over the finish line as they face pressure from the administration to call a vote. 

Upton’s new amendment would add $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions afford their premiums. 

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It is far from clear, though, whether that money would make much of a difference. The liberal Center for American Progress estimated on Tuesday that the high-risk pools are underfunded by much more: $200 billion over 10 years.

The GOP bill already includes $130 billion over 10 years, which was not swaying many moderates as of Tuesday. 

Upton himself said on Tuesday afternoon that more money would not win him over. 

“It's not a question of more money. It's a question of protecting those with pre-existing illnesses,” Upton told The Hill then. “More money does not do the trick.”

But now it appears he could come on board. 

On conservative host Hugh Hewitt's radio show Wednesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Tech: Trump touts new Wisconsin electronics plant | Lawmakers to unveil email privacy bill | Facebook funds group fighting election hacks Overnight Finance: Fed holds rates steady | Treasury chief looking at online sales taxes | White House, GOP close to releasing tax-reform principles Wisconsin Democrat refuses to be ‘backdrop’ in Trump’s jobs announcement MORE (R-Wis.) praised Upton's efforts, calling his amendment something that "nobody has a problem with."

"Fred Upton identified something he thinks will make the bill better," Ryan said. "What we're doing is listening to our members, finding where that sweet spot of consensus is and driving there."

Illustrating the pressure from the White House, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called for a vote on Fox News Wednesday morning. 

Mulvaney said that if he were Speaker of the House, "I’d probably go to the floor today, because it’s just that close."
 
If the House voted this week, there would not be time for a new Congressional Budget Office analysis of Upton's changes or of an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).

The MacArthur amendment set off moderates' concerns by allowing states to waive ObamaCare protections that prevent people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. 

GOP leaders are now making a last-minute push to make changes to win over moderates and get enough votes to pass the measure, possibly this week. 

The House is leaving for a one-week recess next week, which many lawmakers fear could take away momentum. 

President Trump is also putting the pressure on wavering GOP lawmakers. 

Trump will meet with Upton, as well as Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), a surprise no vote on the bill, on Wednesday morning, according to a White House official. Two top lawmakers on healthcare, Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Michael BurgessMichael BurgessMedicaid efficiency is needed now, more than ever In the politics of healthcare reform, past is prologue New hope for ObamaCare repeal? Key GOP lawmaker working on amendment MORE (R-Texas), will also be in the meeting.  

The president on Tuesday called a number of GOP lawmakers who are either opposed or on the fence. Long, a vocal Trump supporter, received two calls in as many days, he told The Hill. 

Rep. Dan Webster (R-Fla.), another hold out, received a call from Trump on Wednesday morning, he told The Hill. Webster said the bill doesn't provide enough for Medicaid-funded nursing home beds. 

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Webster said The White House still had not addressed his concerns and he remained a no on the bill.