Ryan said Republican leaders still planned to bring the healthcare
bill to a vote on the House of Representatives floor on Thursday.
Speaking on the "Fox News Sunday" television program, he said
leaders were working to address concerns that had been raised by
rank-and-file Republicans to the legislation.
Republicans remain deeply divided over the healthcare overhaul,
which is President Donald Trump's first major legislative
initiative. It aims to fulfill his campaign pledge to repeal and
replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, the
signature healthcare program of his Democratic predecessor, Barack
Democrats say the Republican plan could throw millions off health
insurance and hurt the elderly, poor and working families while
giving tax cuts to the rich.
"We think we should be offering even more assistance than the bill
currently does" for lower-income people age 50 to 64, Ryan, the top
Republican in Congress, said of the tax credits for health insurance
that are proposed in the legislation.
Ryan also said Republicans were working on changes that would allow
federal block grants to states for Medicaid and permit states to
impose a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
Trump told reporters in a brief conversation aboard Air Force One
that he had meetings about healthcare reform in Florida at the
weekend and that the effort to sell the proposal was going well.
He has been wooing lawmakers to vote for the bill and won the
backing of a dozen conservative lawmakers on Friday after an Oval
Office meeting in which the president endorsed a work requirement
and block-grant option for Medicaid.
Trump is set to meet Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy special
adviser under Obama who helped shape the Affordable Care Acton, at
the White House on Monday, along with Ryan and Health and Human
Services Secretary Tom Price.
Block grants would give states a set amount of money to cover people
on the Medicaid program and provide flexibility in spending
decisions. However, there is no guarantee funding would keep up with
"TRYING TO FIX BILL"
While Ryan said he felt "very good" about the health bill's
prospects in the House, a leading conservative lawmaker,
Representative Mark Meadows, told the C-Span "Newsmakers" program
that there were currently 40 Republican "no" votes in the House.
Republicans hold a majority in the chamber but cannot afford to have
more than 21 defections for the measure to pass.
Meadows and two other Republican opponents of the bill, Senators
Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago
estate in Florida on Saturday "negotiating with the president's
team, trying to fix this bill," Cruz told CBS' "Face the Nation."
[to top of second column]
North Carolina Republican Meadows said the changes being considered
for the Medicaid program would not go far enough if they left it up
to states to decide whether to put in place a work requirement.
Price acknowledged the tough negotiations, telling ABC's "This
Week": "It's a fine needle that needs to be thread, there's no doubt
The healthcare bill would face significant challenges in the Senate
even if it were to pass the House.
Senator Tom Cotton, a conservative Arkansas Republican, said the
bill would not reduce premiums for people on the private insurance
market. "It's fixable, but it's going to take a lot of work," Cotton
said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Moderate Republicans have also expressed concerns about the bill,
and their worries are often not the same as that of conservatives.
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Republican Senator Susan Collins
of Maine worried the bill would harm older Americans, and shift
Medicaid costs to states - something critics say a block-grant
approach would only make worse.
Collins said coverage issues must also be dealt with, citing a
report from the Congressional Budget Office that said 14 million
people would lose health coverage under the House bill over the next
year and 24 million over the next decade.
Affordability has been one of the bigger concerns that insurers and
hospital groups have raised about the legislation. To the extent
that a change in tax credits makes healthcare more affordable for
some people, insurers and hospitals could stand to benefit.
The BlueCross BlueShield Association emphasized the need for the
replacement to be affordable when the draft of the healthcare bill
was released earlier this month. The association represents BCBS
insurers that cover the vast majority of the roughly 10 million
people enrolled in 2017 Obamacare plans.
(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Roberta
Rampton in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Peter
Cooney and Paul Tait)
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