Conservative warns McConnell to not give up on ObamaCare repeal

Conservative warns McConnell to not give up on ObamaCare repeal
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A leading House conservative is warning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Top House Democrat says party would lose elections if they were held today: report MORE (R-Ky.) he should not quit fighting to pass legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare through the Senate.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is not happy about talk that Senate Republicans might give up that effort and instead work with Democrats on legislation to shore up troubled insurance markets.

“If we’re waving the white flag on something that we’ve campaigned against for many years, it is not a good sign for what comes down the pipe. How many white flags will we raise just when the going gets rough?” Meadows told The Hill in an interview.

“It’s incumbent on us to work, to negotiate and find a happy medium that gets 51 votes in the Senate, 218 votes in the House and send it to the president,” he added.

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Meadows is reacting in part to comments McConnell made Thursday that suggested he might be getting closer to throwing in the towel on the healthcare effort.

“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health insurance markets must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky.

McConnell’s statement is one of several recent signals that the Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, is in trouble.

Conservatives and moderates have dug in their heels this week over a controversial proposal sponsored by Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUp next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThis week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Utah) to allow insurance companies to sell health plans that don’t comply with federal requirements as long as they sell options that do qualify.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSeven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Graham: Bipartisan infrastructure pay-fors are insufficient MORE (R-Kan.) told constituents in Kansas this week that he will insist on the bill maintaining the protections for people with pre-existing conditions.  

Senate Democrats welcomed McConnell’s statement as a sign that the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare is wobbling and that GOP leaders are getting closer to moving on to other issues.

“It’s encouraging that Sen. McConnell today acknowledged that the issues with the issues with the exchanges are fixable, and opened the door to bipartisan solutions to improve our healthcare system,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerChuck Schumer'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates National Organization for Women calls for Cuomo resignation MORE (N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday.

“Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law,” he added.

If legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare fails, states will need billions of dollars over the next few years to keep insurance companies participating in unprofitable marketplaces.

But Meadows warned on Friday that any proposal to funnel taxpayer money to insurance companies to stabilize the market will fall flat with House Republicans.

“There is zero chance you would find enough Republican votes on the House side to do that,” he said.

Meadows said he was willing to look at federal payments to insurers to prevent a premium spike during a transition period, but only for a transition period.

The Obama and Trump administration have made cost-sharing reduction payments to reimburse insurance companies for providing coverage to sicker individuals because of federal mandates.

The Senate healthcare bill includes a $50 billion short-term market stabilization fund covering years 2018 through 2021 but that is only palatable to conservative lawmakers because it would provide a bridge to new marketplaces with less federal regulation.

Talk of spending billions of dollars on the insurance marketplaces to keep the broad structures of ObamaCare in place is a non-starter with Meadows and allied House Republicans.

“To suggest that we’re going to bail out insurance companies when we’re not repealing or replacing ObamaCare — that’s what it would be,” he said.

If the Senate healthcare bill grinds to a stalemate, Meadows said he and other House conservatives would be willing to consider market stabilization measures attached to legislation that replaces as much of ObamaCare as possible under Senate rules.

“If we only have a repeal without a replace can I see a market stabilization measure being put forward in the Senate and the House, yes,” he added.

But to stabilize markets to keep ObamaCare on the books is unacceptable to House conservatives, he explained.

Meadows said House conservatives could also be amenable to a straight ObamaCare repeal bill that has a longer transition of three years instead of the two-year implementation schedule in the 2015 repeal measure that the Senate and House passed but former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAzar regrets Trump didn't get vaccinated on national TV Franklin D. Roosevelt's prescient warning Harris 'root causes' immigration plan faces challenges MORE vetoed.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), a close ally of McConnell’s, and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) have introduced legislation to “rescue” people in failing insurance markets if the GOP healthcare bill collapses.

Their proposal would allow people who receive subsidies under the current law to buy health insurance outside of ObamaCare’s exchanges as long as those plans are approved by states for sale in the individual markets.

Other Republicans have discussed passing legislation to formally authorize cost-sharing reduction payments, which the administration has now been making under executive authority.

The payments started under Obama and Republicans criticized them as unconstitutional.