House Republicans Tout New Measure in Bid to Save Health Bill

WASHINGTON (CN) – Toeing another failure in their latest attempt to replace the federal health care law, House Republicans plan to introduce a measure aimed at attracting moderate holdouts on the bill.

According to a report from Axios, Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who recently came out against the American Health Care Act, plans to introduce an amendment to the bill that would put $8 billion over five years into a pool to help people with pre-existing conditions cover their higher insurance premiums.

The amendment could bring back moderates who pulled off the bill over a provision that would allow some states to waive requirements that health plans cover certain basic benefits and do not charge people with preexisting health conditions more than healthy people.

Upton was a high-profile loss for Republicans eager to achieve their long-held dream of repealing the Obama administration’s signature health care law, whose full name is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The outlook for the latest attempt to pass the replacement for Obamacare seemed more promising early on when the Conservative House Freedom Caucus threw its support behind the bill, but moderates have still been reluctant to come along.

Returning Upton to the yes column could bring the bill closer to passing, even as public vote counts show Republicans would need to pick up a large number of members undecided on the bill in order to pass it.

“It’s not quite a done deed yet, but it addresses many of my concerns,” Upton told the Associated Press about his amendment.

Upton is reportedly meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning in an effort from the White House to deliver on one of the Trump campaign’s largest promises. Republicans could try to force a vote on the bill by the end of the week, before members head home for a short recess.

Soon after the news of the potential amendment broke, liberal groups that have long opposed Republican efforts to replace Obamacare upped their calls for the public to put pressure on their representatives to vote against the bill. Such pressure was key to defeating Republicans’ first attempt to pass the American Health Care Act in March.

“This is a red alert,” Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy at the Center for American Progress, wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Only a TIDAL WAVE of calls TODAY can kill Trumpcare.”

Even if the legislation passes the House by a razor-thin margin, it faces a difficult road in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has questioned whether Republicans would be able to use reconciliation, a procedure that requires only 51 votes to pass but places restrictions on the types of legislation that can go through, to pass the bill and it is unlikely to have the support for the usual procedure, which essentially requires 60 votes in favor.

“The proposed Upton amendment is like administering cough medicine to someone with stage 4 cancer,” Schumer said in a statement. “This Republican amendment leaves Americans with preexisting conditions as vulnerable as they were before under this bill. High-risk pools are the real death panels: they mean waiting forever in line for unaffordable health insurance.”

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