Healthcare

New ObamaCare plan emerges in House

House Republicans appear to be coalescing behind a plan that would give states the option of keeping ObamaCare subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the healthcare law.

The plan, presented Wednesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would give block grants to states that want them, according to lawmakers who attended a briefing. States would get to choose how to spend the money to cover people in their state. The grants would last for two years, giving the next president a chance to enact an alternative to ObamaCare.

{mosads}But if states decided not to accept the block grants, residents would be allowed to keep their ObamaCare subsidies. They would also be allowed to buy any plan approved by the state, on or off the federal exchange.

The emerging House plan would also repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates, in a nod to conservatives who are pushing to scale back the law. Top members of the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee both appeared receptive to the plan on Wednesday.

“It block-grants the money to states that opt in to our state program, and then they can set up their own exchange; they can give tax credits; they can set up health savings accounts; they can do whatever they want,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), a co-chairman of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, offered early approval for the plan because the amount in block grants offered to each state would be equal to the amount of money people in the state are now receiving in insurance subsidies.

He said he believes the approach would be particularly popular in states with both a GOP governor and legislature, such as in his home state of Tennessee. Other states, like New York, he said, could keep every part of the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said the plan could include “safe harbor,” to allow people to keep their subsidies until the end of the year, when the block grants would kick in.

Boustany said that, after two years, ObamaCare would sunset as a whole, sometime in 2017.

For many members, the House briefing offered the first chance to hear details from leadership about their likely proposals, which won’t be made public unless the justices rule against the law in King v. Burwell. A decision in the case could come as early as Thursday.

While House lawmakers left their meeting describing the outlines of the plan presented to them, Senate Republicans emphasized they did not have a consensus after their separate strategy session.

Asked if Senate Republicans came to any kind of consensus, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) replied, “No.” Asked the same question separately, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) laughed and also said, “No.”

The Senate’s briefing, which was led by two GOP chairmen, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), highlighted multiple proposals that have been put forward in the chamber.

Barrasso said he presented a “broad outline of what we’ve been working on with the House” that would temporarily extend healthcare subsidies through at least the 2016 elections.

“I think there’s kind of an amalgamation of plans and ideas of different members that we’ve had out there that we’re trying to put together, but at this point, it’s still a work in progress,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

He mentioned competing plans from Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and a group of committee chairmen.

A plan from Johnson to continue insurance subsidies through 2017 has gained support among Senate Republicans, and Barrasso has said the plan would include some form of temporary assistance. Leaving the meeting Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said the plan could include some way to “grandfather” current ObamaCare subsidies.

No senator leaving the meeting mentioned the idea of providing block grants to states, even though the House presented that as its plan later in the afternoon.  

Republicans say having a plan to point to would lessen the pressure they know will come from the White House to simply restore the subsidies.

“We recognize there will be a messaging war, and so the question is, how do we position ourselves, how do we posture ourselves for what will be a messaging war?” Fleming asked. “Most of us are skeptical the president will sign anything we send him.” 

Updated at 7:55 p.m.

Tags Charles Boustany John Barrasso John Cornyn John Fleming John Thune Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Paul Ryan Richard Burr Ron Johnson
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