10 players to watch on ObamaCare

10 players to watch on ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

• Republicans are wrestling with the difficult task of how to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare.

The party remains divided on many central questions: How long should repeal take? Should the Medicaid expansion be abolished? And should some of the taxes in ­ObamaCare be kept to help pay for a new coverage option?

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As President Trump, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.) seek to build consensus on the path forward, here are 10 of the biggest players to watch.  

 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (R-Tenn.)

Alexander is helping to lead the Senate’s ­ObamaCare efforts as chairman of the Senate Health Committee. Adopting a pragmatic tone, Alexander has touted the “repair” of ­ObamaCare rather than repeal and called for targeted actions to make the individual market more stable.

“We can repair the individual market, which is a good place to start,” Alexander said at a hearing he held earlier this month.

Alexander has expressed hope about working with Democrats on the issue, but the polarized politics of ­ObamaCare could make that all but impossible. Still, Alexander recently cited a letter from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Sen. Kaine: No reason for US to 'engage in military action to protect Saudi oil' MORE (D-Va.) offering to work on improvements to the law.

 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)

Meadows is among those calling for a speedy repeal of ­ObamaCare; as chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, his voice carries weight.

Conservatives are growing impatient with the pace of repeal and replace efforts. Meadows, along with his predecessor as Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), recently released a statement calling on Republican leaders to bring a repeal bill to a vote quickly.

They also warned the repeal legislation should not be watered down from what passed the House in 2015.

“There’s no reason we should put anything less on President Trump’s desk than we put on President Obama’s now that we know it will be signed into law,” Meadows and Jordan said.  

 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price

Price is taking the helm of the administration’s healthcare efforts after a drawn-out confirmation battle.

One of the first actions his department appears ready to take is finishing a regulation on ­ObamaCare “market stabilization.” That regulation is likely to include several tweaks that would help insurance companies, including a crackdown on people gaming the system through extra signup periods.

The rule could help prevent insurers from bailing out of the ­ObamaCare market, buying time for the replacement effort.

Beyond that, Price could take actions to change central aspects of the law, like weakening enforcement of the mandate for people to get coverage. Trump has also indicated he could help shape a replacement plan, saying last month that his administration would release a plan after Price’s confirmation.

 

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.)

Two big reasons to watch Heller: He is one of the few Democratic targets in the 2018 elections, and he comes from a state that accepted ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Republican senators from states that accepted the Medicaid expansion are grappling with whether to try to salvage it under repeal. They met last week to start discussing their options.

During Price’s confirmation hearing, Heller expressed his worries about people losing coverage if the Medicaid expansion is repealed. Under the expansion, coverage is available to adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine)

The centrist senator is a player to watch on any number of issues, but perhaps none more so than ­ObamaCare.

She has opposed voting to repeal the healthcare law before a replacement plan is ready. Collins has also expressed reservations about defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the repeal bill, something Ryan has called for.

The senator has introduced a replacement plan with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would allow states to keep ­ObamaCare if they decided against moving to a new system. That plan has drawn fire from conservatives, who say ­ObamaCare must be wiped from the books.

 

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Walden’s panel, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is at the forefront of the repeal effort. To meet the GOP’s aggressive timeline, the panel is looking to consider an ­ObamaCare bill on March 1.

Like Alexander, Walden has treaded carefully when asked how far the GOP will go in repealing ­ObamaCare. “There are some of these provisions in the law that probably will stay,” he said.

He has introduced a bill aimed at maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, though the details have yet to be worked out. 

 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight MORE (R-Ky.)

Conservative lawmakers and outside conservative groups have been rallying around Paul’s replacement plan, which he introduced last month.

The plan centers on a tax credit and expansion of health savings accounts to help people afford health insurance, while repealing the core aspects of ­ObamaCare. 

Paul has also been pushing to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare at the same time. Last month, he tweeted that Trump called him to express support for the concept.

 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.)

The Foreign Relations Committee chairman has emerged as something of a skeptic of Republicans’ course on repeal and replace.

He drew a headline in the liberal Huffington Post last week when he said of GOP ­ObamaCare replacement efforts: “To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now.”

Corker is also one of a handful of Republicans questioning whether it would be wise to repeal all of ­ObamaCare’s taxes right away, given that it would deprive them of revenue to spend on a replacement. 

 

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

The first-term senator and physician is amassing influence on healthcare issues.

Cassidy put forward the relatively centrist ­ObamaCare replacement plan along with Collins and is among those calling for ­ObamaCare’s taxes to remain in place in order to provide revenue for a replacement plan. “The revenue is essential,” Cassidy said when rolling out his plan. 

 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah)

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, Hatch has enormous power to shape ­ObamaCare’s repeal.

The veteran senator, who is up for reelection in 2018, has rebuffed the Republicans who are calling for some ­ObamaCare taxes to be kept.

“All of the ­ObamaCare taxes need to go as part of the repeal process,” Hatch said this month. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Republicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security MORE (R-Texas) has expressed a similar view.