Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Deal doubtful on new GOP health plan; could raise premiums

RECOMMENDED READING


WASHINGTON — The latest Republican health care idea could mean going back to a time when people with medical problems were charged much higher premiums for individual policies, experts say, as a quick deal among Republicans moved farther out of reach Wednesday.

Conservatives dialed up criticism of moderates for standing in the way. A White House official said progress is being made and all sides are talking, but offered no timetable for a handshake that would allow stalled Republican legislation to advance.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said it's increasingly looking like there won't be a deal before Congress breaks for a two-week recess. Already in jeopardy, the GOP drive to repeal Obamacare could get more complicated.

"I've heard nothing of substance at this point that would break the logjam," Sanford said.

The new idea roughed out in negotiations between the White House and leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus would allow states to seek waivers of two requirements in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. One, known as community rating, forbids insurers from charging higher premiums on account of people's medical problems or pre-existing conditions. The other is the essential health benefits provision that spells out categories of benefits all insurance plans must cover.

Conservatives who want the federal government out of health care argue that those provisions have driven up premiums and decreased choice. The idea is to put states back in charge of insurance rules, reasoning that that would increase the availability of plans with lower premiums, attractive to younger, healthier customers.

But health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski said it would also open a "back door" to a system where the sick can get priced out of coverage.

"It's hard for me to believe that any state would take us back ... when it comes to the protections that consumers have for pre-existing conditions," Laszewski said. "There is no doubt that Obamacare as a system is not working very well, but nobody wants to go backward."

Republicans say their bill includes a fallback option for people with health problems. It would create a $100 billion fund that states can use for a variety of purposes, including high-risk insurance pools where people with medical problems can get coverage.

But Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said those didn't work well in the past. Patients tended to be very sick, and premiums were often too expensive.

"There would be real challenges for people with illnesses to get affordable coverage," Riley said. "You will get guaranteed access to coverage, but you won't be able to afford it." Her nonpartisan organization offers policy advice to states.

A former Obama administration insurance regulator said it's likely that the companies would press states to seek waivers under the latest Republican idea. That's because the broader GOP legislation would repeal unpopular ACA penalties on people who don't get covered, a move that insurers fear would let people postpone getting coverage until they are sick.

"Insurers are going to want some other filter to keep out people," said Karen Pollitz, an expert on individual health insurance, now with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Trump administration officials and leading GOP legislators said they are not giving up trying to find common ground between conservatives and moderates. A late Tuesday meeting at the Capitol involving Vice President Mike Pence and about two dozen lawmakers produced no agreement, but White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said there was progress because both sides were "in the same room talking through the same issues."

Democrats were dismissive. "It's as if the president and Paul Ryan went to some of the Republicans and the Freedom Caucus and said, 'We can make this worse,'" Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said. "Now, let's remember that only 17 percent of the people in the United States approved of the last version."

Ryan's office, however, seemed to be keeping arms-length from the negotiations. Congress leaves town in days for a two-week recess, when lawmakers could face antagonistic grilling from voters at town hall meetings and the entire GOP drive might lose momentum.

Some conservatives said it might be good for lawmakers to go home and get an earful from constituents. Michael Needham, CEO of the advocacy group Heritage Action, accused House moderates of "intransigence" and said they "clearly want to keep Obamacare in place."

But a poll released earlier this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation offered reinforcement for lawmakers reluctant to forge ahead. It showed that 3 in 4 Americans want the Trump administration to make the law work. About 2 in 3 said they were glad the House GOP bill didn't pass last month. But people split evenly between wanting to keep or repeal the statute.

Comments
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Updated: 29 minutes ago

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17