News & Politics

White House Officials, Craving Progress, Push Revised Health Bill


Speaker Paul D. Ryan at a news conference on health care legislation at the Capitol early this month. “We’re in the midst of negotiating sort of finishing touches” on a health bill, he said this week in London. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
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White House officials, desperate to demonstrate progress on President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are pushing to resurrect a Republican health care bill before his 100th day in office next week.

Some members of the president’s team have grown consumed by that deadline, worrying that appraisals of the president’s tenure will be brutal and hoping that a last push on health care might bring a measure of salvation.

But Congress usually cannot take on two big things at once. At the same moment Mr. Trump hits his 100th day on Saturday, April 29, Republican congressional leaders face a far more urgent deadline: Much of the federal government will run out of money.

Reaching agreement to keep the government open past midnight that Friday will be the first priority of Republican leaders when Congress returns Monday from a two-week recess.

“I believe that when we first go back, that’s going to be the thing we’ll address immediately and have to get done by Friday,” said Representative Dan Donovan, Republican of New York.

The president himself has not laid down a hard deadline on the health care bill. “We have a good chance of getting it soon,” Mr. Trump said in a news conference Thursday. “I’d like to say next week, but it will be – I believe we will get it. And whether it’s next week or shortly thereafter.”

Republican leaders and the White House have been searching for a health care agreement that could placate enough moderates and hard-line conservatives to win passage in the House.

The latest version of the proposal, published Thursday morning by Politico, would maintain popular benefits in President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, like guaranteed coverage for emergency services and maternity care. It would also preserve the health law’s ban on insurers rejecting customers with pre-existing medical conditions.

But under this Affordable Care Act replacement, states could seek waivers from many of those mandates if they demonstrate that premiums would be lowered, the number of insured people would increase, or “the public interest of the state” would be advanced.

States could request an exemption from the rule intended to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions could not be charged prohibitive premiums – but only if those states establish a high-risk insurance pool.

“The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really, really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” Mr. Trump said. Asked if a health bill could pass as Congress tries to avert a government shutdown, the president said, “I think we’ll get both.”

The complications that remain in the bill are likely to be far too difficult to finesse at the same time the House and Senate press to pass a giant spending bill. Tussles over the spending deadline – including possible debates over top administration priorities like a border wall and money for immigration enforcement officers – are expected to consume the Capitol.

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