GOP closing in on ObamaCare alternative, lawmakers say

GOP closing in on ObamaCare alternative, lawmakers say
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House Republicans huddled behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss their plan to replace ObamaCare, which they said is on track to be released in June.

The 45-minute meeting was intended to be the final session for the task force that is developing a replacement for the law. However, lawmakers said Thursday that they will have one more meeting, likely next week, after Thursday’s was cut short due to time constraints.

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Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the co-chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said the plan Republicans have drafted would address ObamaCare, Medicare and Medicaid.

The plan will not be put into legislative text, however, meaning it will be less specific and the cost and effect on coverage levels will be harder to assess. Instead, the plan will be a “white paper,” according to Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).

The proposal will include a version of Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington MORE’s (R-Wis.) long-standing proposal to make Medicare more market-based, giving seniors a kind of voucher to use for private insurance, according to two Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting.

"It's turning out to be more encompassing than what we expected," Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE (R-La.) said after the meeting. "Now we're actually adding in Medicare and the premium support, the things that Paul Ryan's been talking about for years."

Democrats have previously decried that idea as ending “Medicare as we know it.” 

Ryan was an “active participant” during Thursday’s meeting, said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). At one point, the Speaker stressed the urgency of the issue by bringing up his meeting earlier that day with GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE, who has said little about his own healthcare plan so far.   

“We want to help provide the policy issues, where if [Trump’s] elected, we can go forward,” Ryan said, according to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Instead of ObamaCare, Roe said the plan would include a tax credit to help people afford coverage as well as high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions, both longtime Republican health policy ideas. 

Democrats counter that high-risk pools existed before ObamaCare and did not work, largely due to a lack of government funding to subsidize the high cost of care for the seriously ill enrollees. 

Upton said the task force is still on track to release a public plan in the coming weeks despite the addition of an extra meeting next week. 

The plan will also include a controversial idea to cap the employer tax exclusion for health insurance, according to two Republican lobbyists.

“They talked about tax equality so that individuals are not discriminated against versus people who work for an employer,” Fleming said after the meeting.

 

On Medicaid, Roe said the plan would include a "per capita cap" on federal Medicaid payments, which would limit the amount of federal funding for each beneficiary in a state. Democrats have warned such proposals would end up cutting benefits.