After a flurry of negotiations that secured the support of key lawmakers, Republicans in the House declared Wednesday night that they had cobbled together just enough votes to pass a major health overhaul bill, as GOP leaders set a Thursday vote on the measure, aiming to deliver a legislative victory for their party and the White House.
"We will pass this," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as he walked through a throng of reporters waiting outside the office of Speaker Paul Ryan, saying the votes would be there.
"I don't claim to be the best health care policy expert in the country," said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), "but I know that doing nothing is not acceptable."
The latest change was spurred by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), an influential moderate who had come out against the bill on Tuesday, but suddenly spun together a plan that drew the support of the White House, setting up an $8 billion fund to help bolster high risk pools - in states that get a waiver from current requirements under the Obama health law - to assist those with pre-existing conditions and other insurance troubles.
"It strengthens the American Health Care Act by reaffirming our commitment to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, something I've always cared about," Upton said late on Wednesday night.
But critics charged that the Upton plan was not focused solely on those with pre-existing conditions, as the $8 billion could be used to help people pay for health insurance for a variety of reasons.
The $8 billion for Upton's plan was the latest infusion of money into this GOP measure, along with $15 billion extra that was added last month, plus a $130 billion 'state stability fund' to help with insurance costs for consumers.
Democrats denounced the GOP changes to the bill, and the move for a quick vote on Thursday, saying there had been no hearings on the changes made to the plan, and pointing out there was no cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
"Republicans should just disband CBO," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "If you don't require a cost estimate on this monstrosity, what's the point of CBO?"
"Every Republican who votes for Trumpcare will have it tattooed on their forehead," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who vowed that GOP lawmakers "will be held accountable."
Other Democrats chimed in with their opposition on social media, while Republicans were nearly silent about the health care vote.
While some Republicans acknowledged that the GOP health plan might have some warts, they said it was the right move to make.
"Those people that say this is a good system - come to my state," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). "We're down to a single provider," as Cole mocked the original claims of the Obama health law.
"I remember 'if you like your plan, you could keep it,'" Cole said. "Not true."
A vote is expected by early afternoon in the House.
If you are looking to "read the bill" - that is sort of hard to do, as the GOP has put out changes to the original plan, but has not published the amended version, as you can see from this posting on a House website that details some of the changes:
Among the major changes in the GOP bill:
+ The bill does *not* repeal the Obama health law; it is an overhaul of parts of the law.
+ Allows states to alter certain requirements of the Obama health law (essential health benefits, community rating) in the hopes of allowing the sale of insurance plans that are less robust, thus bringing down the cost of insurance policies
+ Allows states to set up high risk pools to help deal with higher premium costs for people with pre-existing conditions
+ Takes away the subsidies for people in the health care exchanges, and replaces that with a new refundable tax credit
+ Sets up various funds totaling over $150 billion to help states offset higher insurance costs
+ Eliminates penalties for not buying insurance (individual and employer mandate)
+ Reduces Medicaid spending in the Obama health law by $880 billion over 10 years
+ Eliminates about $1 trillion in a variety of taxes under the Obama health law
There is no cost estimate available for the bill from the Congressional Budget Office. It is not clear how much the plan would save in terms of the budget – maybe less than $100 billion over 10 years, when compared to current law.