Trump steps up the fight for votes on health care reform in the US.

© Reuters. Trump meets with members of the Republican Study Committee at the White House in Washington

By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump accepted changes to the Republican plan for Obamacare on Friday, conservative lawmakers said, as he stepped up his fight to win support for the bill ahead of a House vote. next week.

Republicans remain deeply divided on health care reform in the United States, which is Trump’s first major legislative initiative and aims to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal and replace the health care program of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. .

House Republicans are speeding up the legislation and are expected to see their fourth and final House committee hearing on Wednesday. It could go to a Republican-dominated House vote on Thursday, setting up another battle in the Senate, which also has a Republican majority.

House Republicans who came out of a White House meeting with Trump, as well as a meeting on Capitol Hill with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, listed several changes they hope for. perform to attract moderate and conservative party members are currently speaking out for their support.

House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, who attended the Capitol session, said it is highly likely that there will be changes to the tax credits offered in the bill to do more for seniors and seniors. low income, something that moderate Republicans have sought.

Conservative Republicans who met with Trump said they agreed with the changes to the government’s Medicaid insurance program for the poor. These include work requirements for healthy, childless Medicaid recipients, said Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House’s largest conservative group. Walker said he now supported the bill.

The expected changes would also give states the option of receiving a global global grant for Medicaid and the freedom to run the program as they see fit, Walker said in a statement.

In a letter sent Thursday to Ryan and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican governors of Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and Arkansas said the current bill does not provide new flexibility for states, but carries significant costs to them.

Trump met with a dozen House conservatives in the White House and later declared that he had won them over to the plan, formally known as the American Health Care Act.

“I’m 100 percent behind this,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “We made certain changes but, frankly, very few.”

Vice President Mike Pence was due to arrive in Florida on Saturday to sell the bill to small businesses, the White House said.

NOT ALL CONVINCED

But there were no signs of change to address one of the top priorities of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which wants to quickly cut health insurance premiums. The Freedom Caucus did not attend the White House meeting.

Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the group, expressed frustration that House leaders were talking about making the Medicaid work requirement optional, which said “don’t move the ball more than a couple of yards on a playing field. very long”.

Rep. Justin Amash, another member of the Freedom Caucus, tweeted: “It is absolutely not true that the Conservatives have turned yes on the healthcare bill. It does not repeal Obamacare. It is still a disaster.”

Meadows said his group will propose an amendment Monday.

Representative Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican, said the House bill should be crafted to win support in the Senate, where numerous Republicans have expressed skepticism.

“I don’t like the idea of ​​just sending an invoice that they can gut and return,” Dent said.

Ryan, the main proponent of the plan, recognized the challenges of winning over lawmakers.

“There are people from the center and right who have various concerns,” he said in a conservative forum. “We are trying to make sure we address as many of these concerns as possible without destroying the bill … and without losing votes, but adding votes.”

Democrats have roundly rejected the Republican proposal, saying it hurts poor, elderly and working families while offering tax cuts to wealthy Americans and businesses.

In his meeting with House Republicans on Friday, Price spoke with lawmakers about other changes the department could make through the rules and official guidance it uses to implement the healthcare law. These possibly include altering the health benefits that insurance plans are required by law to cover.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that 14 million Americans would lose their health insurance next year under the Republican plan. Obamacare expanded insurance to about 20 million Americans.