House Republicans Debut AHCA Amendment

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The House GOP has created an amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a product of ongoing negotiation between House leadership, moderate Republicans, and the conservative members of the Freedom Caucus. Republican leadership hopes this new compromise will garner enough votes to pass the bill, perhaps even right after Congress returns from recess next Tuesday.

The newest iteration of the bill, as indicated in the MacArthur Amendment, will reinstate essential health benefits as the federal standard and keep the key provisions of the original AHCA bill, which was scuttled last month after the GOP lacked the votes to pass it. According to CNBC, a member of the Freedom Caucus said the amendment would change the AHCA enough to gain the support of 18 to 20 new “yes” votes from his group.

Among the provisions maintained are guaranteed coverage, community-rating rules, coverage for preexisting conditions, and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ health-care plan until the age of 26. But, in an attempt to reconcile the desire for greater coverage with conservative concerns about Obamacare’s regulations and ensuing premium hikes, the amendment will also offer states the option of obtaining limited waivers for some of the AHCA’s requirements.

States could seek these waivers for essential health benefits and community-rating rules, except for those regarding gender, age, and health status (with the exception of states with high-risk pools). States can only access these waivers if they intend to do so for the purpose of reducing premium costs, increasing the number of people insured, or otherwise benefiting the state’s public interest.

Although it is possible that Congress might revisit the AHCA and this amendment as early as next week, the looming possibility of government shutdown next Friday will likely force them to first deal with a spending bill.

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