Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released what can only be described as a devastating analysis of the American Health Care Act, Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The CBO found that the bill would leave an additional twenty-three million people uninsured, gut Medicaid, put at risk millions with preexisting conditions, and cause sick and older people’s premiums to skyrocket to finance a massive tax cut for the wealthy. The AHCA narrowly passed the House earlier this month without a CBO score following a compromise between the GOP leaders of the moderate Tuesday Group and the hard-right Freedom Caucus.
Earlier this week, U.S. Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey resigned as chairman of the Tuesday Group, saying, “Many in the Tuesday Group are eager to live up to our ideal of being problem-solvers, while others seem unwilling to compromise. The recent health care debate was illustrative.”
And now U.S. Representative Mark Meadows, who represents the Eleventh Congressional District of North Carolina and chairs the Freedom Caucus, seems to be having his own regrets. This anecdote, from the Independent Journal Review, is remarkable.
Meadows’s reaction is certainly compelling, but there are two things that bear mention here: 1) It was hardly a secret that the high-risk pools in the House pool weren’t adequately funded. Every expert from every end of the ideological spectrum said as much. Funding them would have eaten into either the bill’s tax cuts or the deficit savings. 2) This story raises an obvious question: Why did representatives—Meadows included—vote for something before knowing what it would do?
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), — who played a pivotal role in including state waiver options in AHCA — hadn’t read the full report yet, but initially said he saw it as “good news.”
When reporters pointed out the portion of the CBO report saying individuals with preexisting conditions in waiver states would be charged higher premiums and could even be priced out of the insurance market — destabilizing markets in those states — under AHCA, Meadows seemed surprised.
“Well, that’s not what I read,” Meadows said, putting on his reading glasses and peering at the paragraph on the phone of a nearby reporter. […]
After reading the paragraph, Meadows told reporters he would go through the CBO analysis more thoroughly and run the numbers, adding he would work to make sure the high-risk pools are properly funded.
Meadows, suddenly emotional, choked back tears and said, “Listen, I lost my sister to breast cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to preexisting conditions, it’s me. I’m not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody’s sister or father because I wouldn’t do it to myself.”
He continued: “In the end, we’ve got to make sure there’s enough funding there to handle preexisting conditions and drive down premiums. And if we can’t do those three things, then we will have failed.”
Meadows indicated he would support less-conservative changes to provide more funding for high-risk pools in the Senate, if needed.