Trump Wants Health-Care Bill to Protect Pre-Existing Conditions

  • President says it will be ‘every bit as good’ as Obamacare
  • GOP leaders mulling vote on health bill later this week

Rep. Jordan Hopes for Health-Care Vote This Week

President Donald Trump said Monday the Republican health-care bill being negotiated in Congress ultimately will protect Americans with pre-existing conditions as well as Obamacare does.

“I want it to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now," he said during an Oval Office interview Monday with Bloomberg News. "It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare."

The latest version of the House GOP bill, which Republican leaders are trying to figure out whether they have the votes to pass this week, wouldn’t live up to that promise and would weaken those protections.

A new amendment aimed at winning over conservative holdouts would allow states to apply for waivers from Obamacare’s requirements to provide certain essential health benefits if they are able to show that the modifications would cut prices. It also would allow states to sidestep the requirement that all consumers in a certain area must be charged the same rate for insurance, which would make plans significantly more expensive for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Republican bill would hurt protections for people with pre-existing conditions like a history of cancer, said Kirsten Sloan, senior director of policy analysis and legislative support at the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

Obamacare “allowed a person with cancer to both get and keep insurance because of the insurance market protections; it made sure the insurance the kind of person with cancer was purchasing was meaningful,” Sloan said in an interview. The Republican proposal “begins to erode those protections.”

If states are allowed to use waivers for some protections, Sloan said, “you really are not guaranteeing that a cancer patient could get and afford coverage.” Her group supported the Affordable Care Act and has opposed the GOP bill.

‘Continuously Covered’

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office defended the GOP health bill on Monday, saying the measure does protect people with pre-existing conditions.

“States can’t opt out without a high-risk pool to take care of them. And waivers never apply to anyone who has been continuously covered,” said AshLee Strong, Ryan’s press secretary. “We believe there is more than one way to address this problem.”

Trump repeated in the interview his contention that the Affordable Care Act is already disintegrating.

“And Obamacare just so you know, Obamacare’s terrible on preexisting conditions, you know why? Cause you’re not going to have it,” he said. “It’s folding. It’s gone.”

Reconsidering Floor Vote

The GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare has stalled ever since leaders scrapped a planned floor vote in late March.

After several embarrassing setbacks, Republican leaders, under pressure from the White House, spent much of last week weighing whether to hold a vote on the measure that included the new amendment, which was negotiated by New Jersey Representative Tom MacArthur and North Carolina Representative Mark Meadows, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus. 

Conservative holdouts endorsed the revised bill but a number of moderate Republicans remained opposed to the measure, making it unclear whether it had enough votes to pass.

Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he hopes the House might act on a health-care bill soon. But he also said a final version from Congress might not be ready “before the end of the year" for Trump to sign.

Two of Trump’s top aides, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, in interviews with CBS, both projected confidence Monday that it would. "This is going to be a great week – we’re going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We’re convinced we’ve got the votes," Cohn said.

House Republicans are far less certain. There is no vote scheduled yet for this week and there are still not enough votes to pass a bill, a congressional aide said after Priebus’s and Cohn’s comments. While the new language won over some conservative holdouts, a number of moderate Republicans remain opposed. 

Leaders are continuing to work to get more votes on board and will schedule a vote for this week if they believe they have enough to pass a bill, the aide added.

— With assistance by Anna Edgerton, and Anna Edney

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