The Trump administration is pushing GOP lawmakers to fall in line on healthcare reform, even as Republican senators began an effort to rewrite the Affordable Care Act repeal bill that just passed the House.
On Friday, a working group of 13 senators led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began work on forging an agreement about how to handle the American Health Care Act, the Wall Street Journal reported. The AHCA narrowly passed the House, 217-213, on Thursday.
The working group basically plans to set aside the House bill and craft its own package—with an eye toward tweaking the AHCA provisions that makes health insurance more expensive for older Americans.
“The Senate is starting from scratch,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on ABC’s “This Week." “We're going to draft our own bill. And I'm convinced that we're going to take the time to do it right."
Collins, however, is not included in the working group, which is composed entirely of male senators—a fact that drew criticism from some on social media.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, made it clear to senators via Twitter that they are now responsible for ensuring Republicans fulfill their campaign promise to repeal and replace the ACA:
Republican Senators will not let the American people down! ObamaCare premiums and deductibles are way up - it was a lie and it is dead!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2017
A senior White House official also told The Wall Street Journal that the prospect of more insurers announcing they will pull out of ACA marketplaces next year might help Republicans push their bill through the Senate. "It does encourage members to act," the official said.
For his part, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that he spoke with members of the Senate working group and is certain they will draft legislation that’s compatible with what the House passed.
Priebus also downplayed concerned about the House bill’s implications for individuals with preexisting conditions. He said he doubts many governors will even take advantage of the waiver option that lets them opt out of the ACA’s community rating provision, which lets insurers charge sick customers higher premiums.
However, at least one GOP governor has already expressed interest in applying for such a waiver.
"That's something we would certainly consider,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He noted, however, that he is going to wait to see what’s in the final version of the healthcare bill.
The prospect of states taking advantage of the waivers is also not lost on Democratic leaders, who have said they will therefore make preexisting conditions a campaign issue in gubernatorial and state legislative races, according to The New York Times.
And in a speech in Boston on Sunday, former President Barack Obama seemed to encourage GOP lawmakers to oppose their own party on healthcare, as the Associated Press reported.
“It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions ... such courage is still possible, that today’s members of Congress regardless of party are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions,” he said.