Mar-a-Lago huddle sets stage for Obamacare repeal on 7th anniversary


Key GOP players met in President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate over the weekend to discuss changes to a proposed rollback of the Affordable Care Act ahead of one its biggest moments: Speaker Paul Ryan said he intends to bring the plan to the House floor on the health law’s seventh anniversary on Thursday.

RELATED: AARP says Florida slammed worst by Obamacare repeal

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he spent three hours in Palm Beach Saturday trying to “fix the bill” known as the American Health Care Act. At times a winking ally, then Trump’s most bitter rival in last year’s primaries, Cruz wound up on the president’s southern turf as a reminder of the widely diverging views within the party that the administration must reconcile if it hopes to get anything done on a core campaign promise.

“I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising,” Cruz said.

RELATED: CBO says 24 million to lose insurance under Trumpcare plan

Ryan confirmed changes under discussion include increasing tax credits for lower-income and older people, allowing states to impose a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients and smoothing the way for states to accept a fixed block grant for Medicaid.

“Yes, those are all things that we are working on,” Ryan said on Fox News Sunday.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: President Trump in Palm Beach

On Monday, the speaker tweeted “we’re going to keep our word” to repeal and replace Obamacare.

But the challenge has been to satisfy financial conservatives without leading millions of people to conclude they are getting the rotten end of the deal — many of them in states and age groups that President Trump carried.

Among those particularly hit hard by the current House plan, The Palm Beach Post reported, would be more than 450,000 Floridians between ages 50 and 64. Individuals in this bracket stand to lose thousands of dollars annually in government financial assistance to help them cover costs, the largest such group in any state, ahead of even California and Texas, according to an AARP analysis.

One of those potentially affected is author and consultant Chris MacLellan, 60, of Lake Worth. He said last weekhe worries he may be priced out of the market completely: “I’m pretty scared about what’s ahead of me.”

A rejiggered plan must find enough support not only in the House but also the Senate to reach the president’s desk.

Cruz said on CBS’s Face the Nation he met with President Donald Trump’s team at Mar-a-Lago, dubbed the southern White House, and made clear he could not vote for the bill as it stands. Also present, he said: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows R-N.C.

Cruz referred to a Congressional Budget Office report that forecast rates would rise up to 20 percent on ACA marketplace plans the next two years before eventually falling to about 10 percent below what the original health law would have produced in 2026.

The CBO forecast assumes many healthy people will drop out of ACA marketplace plans because they lose government financial assistance to help cover costs and no longer face a penalty for lacking insurance. In the short term, that means fewer people are paying into the pool and that could drive up rates for those who remain, CBO officials said.

But the CBO does not see a death spiral. By 2026, rates could come in about 10 percent below what they would have been under Obamacare as insurers are allowed to offer skimpier plans and some younger and higher-income consumers gravitate to the market because they enjoy more government help in the form of tax credits than they did previously, the CBO report said.

Still, it’s an alarming prospect for many lower-income and older consumers. The loss of tax credits combined with new provisions that let insurers charge them five times more than younger consumers — instead of three times under current law — could leave some Americans between 50 and 64 paying about $8,400 more per year, AARP officials said.

Last week Trump said, “If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything. I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand. I’m in a little way, I’m an arbitrator.”

Ryan said, “We have a president who is rolling up his sleeves, he’s learning — he’s a very quick learner on health care. He’s a business guy who came to the presidency, and now, he’s helping us make sure that would bridge differences with members who are bringing constructive ideas and solutions for how to make this bill better.”

In all, 24 million Americans would likely drop out of insurance in a decade under the House bill compared to Obamacare, the CBO report said. Advocacy groups say that could include more than 1.3 million in Florida. Taxpayers would save about $323 billion, CBO figured.

An advocacy group has called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to “speak up for all of Floridians who are about to lose their health insurance and health care.” Florida Community Health Action Information Network wrote in an open letter that as top Washington officials were taking weekend meetings in Florida “all of a sudden you seem to have lost your voice on what we argue is the most important topic to your constituents.”

Scott did have something to say on Medicaid, designed to care for lower-income residents. The governor sent a letter Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price requesting “greater flexibility from the federal government in running our statewide Medicaid program so we can deliver high-quality care without layers of government bureaucracy.”

Obamacare’s seventh anniversary arrives Thursday. Former president Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.



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