White House wants substantial changes to ObamaCare deal

White House wants substantial changes to ObamaCare deal
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The White House says that substantial changes must be made to a bipartisan health-care deal for President Trump to support it.

The changes would push the bill to the right, raising serious doubt about whether Democrats would agree to the deal.

A White House official said Wednesday night that the deal should include "relief" from ObamaCare's individual mandate, which requires that people have health insurance. The mandate is a central component of ObamaCare of which Democrats are protective and Republicans critical.

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A current, bipartisan health-care proposal, between Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (D-Wash.), is all but dead at the moment, given opposition from Trump and many Republican lawmakers.

"In order for the White House to support similar legislation, it must provide immediate benefits to American families, workers and small businesses," the White House official said.

"These benefits should include relief from the individual and employer mandates; an expansion of affordable coverage options, such as the ones referenced in last week’s executive order; a greater ability for middle-income families to control their healthcare dollars; and meaningful flexibility for states to allow their residents to escape onerous ObamaCare requirements," the official added.

Including changes from last week's executive order would also push the bill to the right, for example opening up short-term health insurance plans that are skimpier and cheaper and opposed by Democrats.

"Meaningful flexibility" for states appears to be a reference to expanding waivers in the deal to allow states to repeal more ObamaCare regulations, which would inject another controversial issue into the talks.

The requested changes emphasize that the White House could be a long way off from supporting the deal. Republican lawmakers say White House support is crucial for the passage of health-care legislation.

Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday that he opposed "bailing out" insurance companies, a reference to ObamaCare payments to insurers that the Alexander-Murray deal sought to extend after Trump cut them off. Many Republicans want more in return for continuing those payments.

Some observers think the measure's main hope of passage is in December as part of a larger deal on government funding.