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House GOP Meets With Price To Discuss Health Care Reform Options

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Newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price met with the House Republican Conference to discuss their options for the Obamacare replacement plan Thursday morning.

Price told the members every department will work to help mitigate the damage caused by the Affordable Care Act before Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden laid out the specifics on how they can move forward, according to a source inside the room.

“He (Price) said there’s much to do on the regulatory front. Every regulation put forward will be viewed as does it help or hurt patients?’” the source said.  “He made clear the president wants to repeal and replace concurrently and he is absolutely committed to that.”

Price reportedly told the room the administration is comfortable with Congress moving first on the legislation and discussed what should be in the repeal and what would be the “plus” elements. The secretary made it clear President Donald Trump would like to see the repeal and replace happen concurrently.

“The president is all in on this,” Price told the room, encouraging them to stick with the timeline, according to the source. “Let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s go shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm.”

Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she’s confident a consensus will be reached and a vote will take place in the first quarter.

“We are on track, this is a top priority for this new Congress, it’s part of our 200-day plan to repeal and replace Obamacare,” she told reporters. “And when we come back after the President’s Day break, these committees are going to go to work to write the legislation, which is we committed to regular order at the very beginning, we committed to doing this in a way that people  can participate and know what is actually going in these bills.”

Walden and Brady went over what the 2015 reconciliation bill would have accomplished and its shortcomings. They two told members the 2015 legislation is a good starting point and discussed the replacement aspects on which they hope to move forward, including tax credits, Medicaid reform, high-risk pools and Health Savings Account (HSA) reforms.

“We’re talking beyond repealing and replacing and starting to return to state control of health care so they can tailor more to their families and restoring the free market as well,” Brady told reporters. “So, making sure we are expanding Health Savings Accounts, giving people an individual tax credit to buy a plan that’s right for then that can travel with them throughout their life, that’s tailored to their life not Wahsington’s.”

Top Republicans are looking for the tax credit to be available for everyone that doesn’t qualify for insurance elsewhere. The credit is expected to adjust with age and family size and would likely exclude plans that offer elective abortion.

Conservatives said concerns remain the tax credits could possibly lead to a tax increase on the middle class. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said they are waiting on the estimates from the Congressional Budget Office to see how the numbers work out.

“What we don’t want is some of the language that we’re hearing, a fourth column of entitlements with Social Security, welfare and Medicare — we don’t want this to be long term and another one of those situations,” he told reporters, adding he likes that they are ensuring everyone has access to affordable care, but needs to see what the costs look like going forward.

A divide remains between a number of members on how to best move forward with Medicaid reform.

With a handful of states led by Republican governors having embraced Medicaid expansion, lawmakers are looking to make sure no one loses their coverage during the transition period. The party did agree that states should be put back in control of major health care decisions, arguing that states have a better grasp on their constituents needs. Lawmakers are slated to continue talks on how they should proceed, whether it be through block grants or a per capita allotment.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he expects substantial progress to be made in coming weeks.

“It’s coming after the recess—we’re waiting for our scores.  I hate to tell you that CBO and Joint Tax are going to give us exactly what we want when they say they’re going to give it to us,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference. “Pending our drafting issues we’re going to be bringing it out after the recess—the district work period, excuse me.”


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