Published: Fri, April 28, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Anxious for win, Trump and Republicans revive health care push

United States lawmakers and the White House braced for a hectic coming week in Washington, with Republicans readying new legislation to repeal Obamacare as Donald Trump seeks a victory to cap his 100th day as president.

In yet more unwelcome news for the Republican Party and President Donald Trump's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said health care reform was off the table until it had the necessary votes and he would be focusing on averting a government shutdown this week, CBS News reported.

Asked Thursday if he wants to see the House pass the GOP health care bill or pass a measure to fund the government and prevent a partial shutdown next week, President Trump said "both". Democrats have signaled they would not cooperate if it contains money for one of Trump's top priorities, a southwestern border wall meant to combat illegal immigration, or if it ends federal subsidies to help low-income people buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which Republicans want to repeal.

With Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, keeping the federal government operating is a basic test of their ability to govern, but their task could become even more complicated if they insist on using the spending legislation to bring about contentious policy changes.

"I believe that when we first go back, that's going to be the thing we'll address immediately and have to get done by Friday", said Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y. Much of the concern continues to center on gutting Obamacare's protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The amendment provides a big exception for that last one - states can let insurers charge different prices for sicker consumers if they set up a "high risk pool" created to subsidize those who are priced out of the market.

Ryan said he has encouraged Republican members to make progress in health care negotiations.

Despite initially saying that he was "done" with health care after disastrous failure of the American Health Care Act - brought down by the House's hard-right Freedom Caucus members - Trump's top aides have been scrambling to get the competing Republican factions together this week.

There might still be some sticking points with more moderate Republicans.

The White House hopes language on a possible health-care deal can come as early as Friday or Saturday, leaving the potential for an agreement next week, a White House official told CNBC earlier Friday.

Unchanged from last month's failed bill are provisions that would strip massive amounts of money out of Medicaid, by far the nation's biggest source of payment for nursing home care. But these pools have traditionally been poorly funded, leaving many people with potentially expensive pre-existing medical conditions without affordable coverage, if they can buy a plan at all.

Fresh from a two-week Easter break, Congress hits the ground running next week - its legislative plate more than full, and its back against the wall with the government funding clock ticking down and the resurrection of a tuned-up ObamaCare replacement bill on its agenda.

Lawmakers returning to Washington will find a familiar quagmire on health care legislation.

But at the same moment Trump's hundred-day mark is reached on April 29, there is a far more urgent deadline: Much of the federal government will run out of money. "We'll see what happens", Trump told reporters Thursday. Does the GOP's health care bill get rid of pre-existing conditions? "We're going to get it done when it's appropriate". Scrapping them could force insurers to raise rates for everyone and endanger coverage for millions of people.

In addition, states could obtain waivers to an Obama prohibition against insurers charging sick customers higher premiums than consumers who are healthy - a change critics argue would make insurance unaffordable for many.

But these high-risk pools were nearly universally unsuccessful before the advent of Obamacare, and the new GOP proposals drew swift criticism from many patient advocates and others.

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