Paul pro­poses health care bill, seeks to unite GOP

Se­na­tor hopes to gain sup­port of mod­er­ates

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky floated a com­pro­mise Oba­macare re­peal plan Mon­day, hop­ing to break a stale­mate on Capi­tol Hill by propos­ing to cut the level of spend­ing to try to ap­pease con­ser­va­tives but keep the ba­sic model of tax­payer sub­si­dies in place to win over mod­er­ates.

Mr. Paul, a Repub­li­can, has met with Pres­i­dent Trump to try to find a way for­ward af­ter con­ser­va­tives and mod­er­ates balked at Mr. Trump’s first at­tempt.

Con­ser­va­tives called it “Oba­macare lite” be­cause it in­cluded a new en­ti­tle­ment — re­fund­able tax cred­its — to re­place Oba­macare’s ex­ist­ing sub­si­dies. Cen­trists were spooked by pre­dic­tions of 24 mil­lion fewer peo­ple be­ing in­sured over the next decade un­der the GOP plan.

“I think the com­pro­mise could be keep­ing some of the un­der­ly­ing pay­ments in Oba­macare, some small per­cent­age of them, in or­der to pla­cate the peo­ple who want that, but not af­fir­ma­tively putting it in the bill,” Mr. Paul said. “Con­ser­va­tives want 100 per­cent re­peal, let’s say mod­er­ates want 80 per­cent re­peal. Let’s vote on 90 per­cent re­peal and be done with it.”

The House GOP plan had scrapped Oba­macare’s gen­er­ous tax­payer sub­si­dies to help peo­ple af­ford to buy in­surance, and re­placed it with a re­fund­able tax credit. Mr. Paul would keep the sub­si­dies in place, so con­ser­va­tives don’t have to back a new GOP en­ti­tle­ment, but would cut the level of spend­ing so it’s more palat­able to bud­get hawks.

Mr. Paul said he men­tioned the idea to Mr. Trump, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney over a Sun­day round of golf, but that they leaned to­ward tweaks in­stead of whole­sale changes.

“I think re­ally their opin­ion right now is to see if they still want to just keep work­ing with what they have, and we’ll see. If they can get enough votes, maybe it goes that way,” Mr. Paul said. “I’m try­ing to of­fer a dif­fer­ent way in case we’re still at an im­passe.”

Mr. Paul also pitched the idea to mem­bers of the House Free­dom Cau­cus — the con­ser­va­tives who helped sink the re­peal ef­fort last month. The se­na­tor de­murred when asked about the re­ac­tion.

“Ev­ery­thing’s still open. We need to see what hap­pens,” Mr. Paul said.

The dis­cus­sions do, how­ever, in­di­cate that Repub­li­cans haven’t com­pletely moved on from the health care de­bate af­ter their em­bar­rass­ing first try.

The White House hasn’t plot­ted out a strat­egy, though it in­sists Mr. Trump is lis­ten­ing to all sides about a path for­ward.

“Talks on Re­peal­ing and Re­plac­ing Obama Care are, and have been, go­ing on, and will con­tinue un­til such time as a deal is hope­fully struck,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sun­day.

He also tweeted that any­one who thinks the re­peal-and-re­place strat­egy is dead “does not know the love and strength” within the Repub­li­can Party.

In­deed, Oba­macare op­po­nents notched a vic­tory in Kansas on Mon­day when Repub­li­cans sus­tained Gov. Sam Brown­back’s veto of a bill to ex­pand Med­i­caid cov­er­age un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Demo­cratic and cen­trist Repub­li­can sup­port­ers of ex­pan­sion fell three votes shy of the two-thirds ma­jor­ity needed to trump the gov­er­nor in the 125-mem­ber cham­ber.

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