As Republicans study an amendment to the American Health Care Act to see if it would revive the moribund effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’re wrestling over language that appears to benefit members of Congress and their staff and looking for a way to change it before any votes are called.
The language, first spotted by Vox health-care reporter Sarah Kliff, leaves a loophole in the McArthur-Meadows amendment’s waivers allowing insurers in states to cut back on the essential health benefits mandated by the ACA. Members of Congress or their staffers from a state that offers a skimpier set of standards would be able stay on the District of Columbia’s plan, which follows the ACA mandate.
Vox’s story ran late Tuesday night, and by Wednesday morning, Republicans were reviewing the loophole. One member who brought it up during the party’s weekly conference meeting was told that the language might not stay in the bill.
In a scrum with reporters before the conference meeting, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said that the language was murky because the District is not a state. Later, leaving a meeting of the House Freedom Caucus, Meadows was clearer about the need to strip the language.
“If you look at the text, it actually penalizes members of Congress and people in D.C.,” said Meadows, who did not explain how Congress and D.C. residents would be penalized. “But we understand the optics, and we’re working on that to make sure that it gets fixed.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a digital ad buy in the districts of 30 Republicans who either represented swing seats or had said they’d oppose the AHCA. The ad, stamped with the name of each targeted Republican, shows a Band-Aid under the word “denied” and an image of the Capitol under the word “approved,” accusing Republicans of twisting the rules to avoid personal pain.
“Removing protections for people with preexisting conditions will go down in infamy as one of the most heartless acts of this Republican Congress,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law. “As proof of the repeal bill’s devastating impact, Republican members of Congress are exempting themselves from the punishment they are willing to inflict on their constituents.”