House GOP leaders won’t move up Medicaid expansion phaseout

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, before a discussion on healthcare in the Roosevelt room of the White House on Friday. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) — House Republican leaders stood by their overhaul of the Affordable Care Act on Friday, including not moving up the phaseout of Medicaid expansion from 2020 to the end of this year.

Some conservative members of Congress want the Medicaid change accelerated. And CNN reported President Donald Trump was open to the suggestion.

“I think right now that would be very difficult to do,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told reporters in a news conference Friday morning on Capitol Hill.

The GOP leaders said they are concerned that moderates would oppose changing the Medicaid provision and jeopardize passage of the healthcare overhaul. They are trying to strike a balancing act with divergent views in Congress.

Leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group, discussed the Medicaid change in a White House meeting with Trump and other senior administration officials Thursday.

McCarthy noted the GOP leaders have to present a plan that will get through the Senate. The Democrats hold the power to stifle legislation via filibuster, which requires 60 votes. The Republicans have 52 members.

GOP leaders met with Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House later Friday.

“We must act now to save Americans from the imploding Obamacare disaster,” the president said at the start of the meeting. “This is the time we’re going to get it done.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt any changes from the plan would be “momentum killing.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon said he strongly backs the Medicaid portion of the bill, and they consulted governors, insurance commissioners and the White House.

“What we want to make sure is we don’t create any gaps here,” Walden said. “Our best effort is what you see before us.”

Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said it is a good plan to replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

“Some have said that this legislation doesn’t do enough,” she said. “It zeros out the mandate, it repeals the taxes, it repeals the subsidies, and it rolls back some of the regulations.”

The House GOP proposal uses age- and income-based tax credits. It would also provide Medicaid amounts to states per capita instead of an open-ended program.

The bill cleared two committees — Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce after marathon sessions from Wednesday night and into Thursday.

Ryan and other leaders envision overhaul in three methods — the special “reconciliation” bill that can pass the Senate with a simple majority, administrative actions by the Trump administration and bills that will require 60 votes to pass the Senate.

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