House GOP moves to add change to health bill before recess

House GOP moves to add change to health bill before recess
© Greg Nash

House Republicans will move Thursday to add an amendment to their ObamaCare replacement bill as a way to show progress before recess, despite the lack of a major breakthrough. 

The House Rules Committee will meet Thursday to add language creating a “risk-sharing fund” to subsidize care for people with high medical costs.

The last-minute change to the healthcare bill before recess is a way to show progress on a bill even though there is no agreement on the thorniest issue facing Republicans: What to do about calls from the conservative House Freedom Caucus to allow states waivers to repeal ObamaCare protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

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The change comes after Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went to the White House on Wednesday night and met with officials, including President Trump briefly. 

The White House has been pushing for progress on healthcare all week, and adding in an amendment gives them something to show for it. 

Still, a risk-sharing fund is one of the least controversial aspects of the plan among House Republicans. Lawmakers said there was wide agreement on the idea at a meeting of different factions Tuesday night. But that group was divided over Freedom Caucus requests on the pre-existing condition regulations. 

The amendment to be added Thursday comes from Reps. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Ethics committee expanding investigation into GOP rep over finance questions MORE (R-Ariz.) and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), both members of the Freedom Caucus. 

It would appropriate $15 billion to insurers over 9 years to help pay for the costs of patients with costly medical conditions. 

It doesn't specify how the money would be distributed but leaves it up to the Health and Human Services department. 

Lawmakers said the new funds would bring premiums down by subsidizing medical costs for people with especially high expenses. The idea, modeled after a program in Maine, appears similar to the “reinsurance” aspect of ObamaCare for its first three years.

GOP leaders sought to demonstrate progress on healthcare by touting the amendment at a press conference. Ryan was joined by a couple dozen lawmakers from different factions of the conference, including some moderates and some conservatives.

The leaders of the Freedom Caucus were not there, however, and the most contentious issues, around pre-existing condition protections, remain unresolved.

 

--This report was updated at 10:27 a.m.

Jessie Hellmann contributed