Conservative groups hope to release new ObamaCare replacement this month

Conservative groups hope to release new ObamaCare replacement this month
© Greg Nash

Conservative groups are hoping to release a new ObamaCare replacement plan later this month as they try to keep alive the repeal effort.

The effort has been led by the Heritage Foundation, the Galen Institute and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who have been meeting at Heritage’s offices, along with other groups, roughly once a week for months.

The plan has essentially no chance of moving in Congress this year. Republican congressional leadership has made clear that it has moved on from the ObamaCare repeal effort this year. And Senate Republicans have an even smaller margin than they did last year when they failed to pass a repeal bill.

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Marie Fishpaw, Heritage’s director of domestic policy studies, acknowledged this reality, but said the groups are trying to push for a repeal effort from outside of Congress.

“This is outside-in and bottom-up,” Fishpaw told The Hill, saying the groups are pushing forward “even in the face of continued leadership disinterest."

She added that “disinterest” is a kind word for leadership’s attitude toward the effort. 

Still, she confirmed that White House staffers have been attending the planning meetings.

The White House said it supported the effort. "The White House fully supports the efforts of a broad coalition working to address the Obamacare disaster and increase affordable healthcare options for middle-class Americans," deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Fishpaw added that Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills MORE (R-Wis.) has also been involved. Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyOvernight Health Care: Opioids package nears finish line | Measure to help drug companies draws ire | Maryland ObamaCare rates to drop Overnight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE (R-La.), one of the two namesakes of the Graham-Cassidy ObamaCare reform effort, said the senator had moved on.

“Graham-Cassidy is dead, but skyrocketing health care costs still need to be addressed,” the Cassidy spokesman said. “Our focus is on new solutions and new ideas that lower costs for families and reflect the latest developments in the health care marketplace.”

The plan, like Graham-Cassidy, includes block grants to the states, taking money now being spent on ObamaCare’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion and instead packaging it into a block grant.

Unlike Graham-Cassidy, the new plan would not cap Medicaid spending, known as a per capita cap, taking out one controversial element of the original plan.

Fishpaw said other details are still being worked out, like how many of ObamaCare’s regulations to repeal, and whether to repeal the rules preventing people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. Those regulations were a major source of internal Republican debate last year.

--This report was updated at 12:08 p.m.