Congressman Meadows optimistic about Obamacare repeal
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-11, Asheville) said on Friday, June 23 that he’s optimistic Congress can come to an agreement on a new healthcare plan to meet the Republican majority and President Donald Trump’s goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act coined Obamacare.
“I’m optimistic we can improve the bill and get consensus among moderates and conservative and ultimately get it to President Trump for his signature,” Meadows said in a conference call with area media representatives.
He has advocated for a repeal of Obamacare saying insurance costs have become too high for many individuals.
The phone meeting came after the unveiling of the Senate’s draft health bill called “Better Care Reconciliation Act” on Thursday, June 22. Republicans in the House approved the American Health Care Act in May, and Meadows was a proponent for conservative priorities as a leading member of the Freedom Caucus.
Several changes would have to happen, however, for a chance at a compromise among Republicans, Meadows said. “In its current form the way it is we don’t have enough support among conservative or moderates in either chamber to get it to the president’s desk,” he said.
Included in the House plan is a stability fund to help cover the federal payments to insurance companies. This fund would be managed by states and individuals would be able to apply for assistance.
“The fundamental question remains how do we make sure premiums come down substantially and solidify the insurance markets to make sure there are enough companies are able to offer insurance.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who purchase one of four insurance plans on the Healthcare Marketplace qualify for tax subsidies to help pay for those plans.
The Senate plan would lower the income limit on those who qualify for subsidies—from up to 400 percent of the poverty level to up to 350 percent of the poverty level.
Meadows said he was confident the impact of that change wouldn’t be great. Many at that income level can get coverage through their employers, he said. He’d like to see it lowered even more to 300 percent.
Another measure Meadows would like to see is expanding qualifications for Health Savings Accounts and allowing people to pay for insurance premiums out of those accounts, which is currently not an option under the ACA. Increased options on HSAs has support across the political aisle, he said.
Meadows said he believes the four plans on the marketplace are not enough—he suggests insurance companies should be able to offer up to 20 plans. Meadows said this is the most important aspect of reaching a compromise in his opinion.
“There are a number of us that believe there should be an amendment for people to be able to purchase ACA plans but also other non-compliant plans that would more accurately reflect the risks they have,” he said. “For example, someone in fifties might have more coverage on certain types of illnesses and less on others.”
This approach, he said, would add cost savings benefits to insurance providers thus impacting premiums.
“We think having that for insurance providers—that’s incredibly important,” Meadows said. “We believe it will have the greatest effect on rates.”
Meadows downplayed the impact of changes to Medicaid, and said the current system today is broken.
“Anytime we look at Medicaid dollars I would like to see greater flexibility for every governor and state to deploy those dollars,” Meadows said.
Both the House bill and Senate draft bill are being criticized over potential loopholes for coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act drastically changed the status quo when it made it law that coverage can’t be denied or cost more for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
The House and Senate both leave leeway that could make it more difficult for those with pre-existing conditions. States could get permission in the House plan to charge more or even exclude coverage for some. However, states could also access federal money to help those individuals pay for expensive policies. The Senate plan, similarly, allows states to ask for permission to reduce coverage and what is considered essential health benefits under the ACA.
On Friday, Meadows said he’s met with President Trump, and said, “he’s wanting to make sure we not only handle pre-existing conditions but we fund it in such a way that doesn’t give people anxiety.”
Meadows said it’s important to make sure the proposed high-risk pools of funds for states to help those with pre-existing conditions cover premiums.