More talks but no decisions on the Republican push to reform health care

© Reuters. US Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the United States Capitol in Washington

By David Morgan and Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to reform Obamacare before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess seemed unlikely Tuesday night as top White House deputies and key Republican groups said more discussions were needed.

Vice President Mike Pence and administration officials met on Capitol Hill for two hours with lawmakers from the moderate “Tuesday Group,” the conservative Republican Study Committee, and the House Freedom Caucus, the rogue group of conservative lawmakers that derailed the former management-backed health care. invoice last month.

While progress had been made, House officials and lawmakers said no text of the bill had been agreed upon and no decisions had been made by the various Republican factions.

The lack of a resolution complicates pressure from the White House for the House to vote on a health care proposal before Friday, when lawmakers return to their districts for two weeks.

“Good speech, good progress,” Pence told reporters without providing details.

Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows said the meeting had focused on an amendment to create “endorsement” to ensure that chronically ill people in high-risk groups do not see spikes in insurance premium costs if Other aspects of Obamacare, also known as the 2010 Affordable Care Act, are repealed.

“No decisions were made. We will be back together tomorrow at a time to be determined, ”Meadows told reporters.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said the focus when talks resumed would be on sticking points such as allowing states to opt out of Obamacare mandates that insurers must cover a minimum level of services. and they cannot charge more to those with pre-existing conditions. a popular provision of the law that Trump has promised to protect.

LEGISLATIVE EVIDENCE

The Republican failure last month to dismantle Obamacare was President Donald Trump’s first major legislative setback and raised questions about how he would build a Republican consensus to meet other important legislative goals.

Many Republicans were elected on promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, but House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to withdraw the bill when it became clear that there were not enough Republican votes to pass it.

Hardline conservatives, like those in the Freedom Caucus, thought it was too similar to the health care bill characteristic of former Democratic President Barack Obama. Moderate conservatives opposed proposed changes to some of its more popular provisions that conservative lawmakers were seeking.

Trump initially said he would move on to deliver on other campaign promises, such as a tax overhaul and an infrastructure spending package, but a new attempt to revive the failed health care push took off on Monday when White House officials met with lawmakers. republicans.

A source familiar with the Republicans’ internal deliberations in the House of Representatives said that health care, not taxes, was now at the top of the House agenda and that the White House was pushing the health care effort.

“They want to do this as quickly as possible,” Meadows told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.

Republican lawmakers have said the new health care push will keep Obamacare’s essential health benefits clause that lists the services and care insurers must cover. However, in a move to attract hard-line conservatives, states could apply for a waiver if they show it would improve coverage and lower costs.

The “endorsement” for people in the high-risk group discussed Tuesday would direct additional funds to a $ 115 billion state stability fund authorized in the first Republican bill. No final decision was made, despite consensus, lawmakers said.

“We are taking our time and working through the policy and structure until we reach a consensus,” said Kevin Brady, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

“Let the solution and common ground drive the timeline, not the other way around. That was really the consensus,” he said.

Ryan told reporters after a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans Tuesday morning that the renewed health care effort was simply in the “conceptual stage at this point” and did not give a timeline for having a bill. in the camera.

Talk of a revived plan hurt stocks at hospitals and insurers that have benefited from Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor, which extended insurance to millions of people and helped reduce hospital debt.

Major hospital and medical groups, including the American Medical Association, opposed the initial Republican bill because it would lead to massive losses in coverage and cuts in hospital admissions.