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Senate health care bill panned by Meadows

Senate health care bill panned by Meadows

The day after the Senate’s own version of a new health care bill came out, influential leader of the House Freedom Caucus and Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, wasted no time in shooting it down.

“In its current form, the way that it is, we don’t have enough support among conservatives or moderates in either chamber to really get it to the president’s desk,” he told reporters on a conference call June 23. 

Meadows said that he’d support the bill if it provided more flexibility for consumers and for insurers. 

“The fundamental question continues to be, ‘How do we make sure that we bring premiums down substantially, and then how do we solidify the insurance market to make sure that there’s plenty of insurers there to provide the coverage?’” 

For consumers, the answer is simple, Meadows said.  

“There are a number of us that believe there should be an amendment in there that allows for people to purchase Obamacare plans but alongside that, purchase other non-compliant, non-ACA plans that would more accurately reflect the risk they have.”

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As an example, he said that a person in his or her 50s might opt for more coverage on certain types of illnesses, and less coverage on others.

He also touts an expanded role for health savings accounts; Meadows said he’s on Obamacare and he pays around $19,000 a year before he gets any benefits. 

“I would be better off to put $19,000 in a HSA,” he said. “Right now, we’re prohibited from doing that under the ACA. Giving consumers more choice on both of those items, I think if we got that it would go a long way to driving down premiums and getting something that is better for consumers.”

Getting something better for insurers also has to be an important part of any properly functioning health care bill, even though the impending collapse of Obamacare in some states is largely the result of self-sabotage that has driven insurers from the market. 

As written, the Affordable Care Act assumed states would expand Medicaid, but a ruling in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court made expansion optional. Residents of those states that didn’t expand — like North Carolina — who earn less than the federal poverty level don’t qualify for subsidies and often don’t qualify for Medicaid, either. 

President Donald Trump called the Senate bill “mean.”

“What he’s wanting is to be sure we not only handle pre-existing conditions but that we fund it in a way that doesn’t give people anxiety,” Meadows said. “I support him fully in that.” 

Meadows has been on record as supporting high-risk pools for pre-existing conditions, and choked back tears after being confronted about their funding. 

“I’m a numbers guy, and so as I looked at what came out of the House, I felt like we could increase that to make sure there is no anxiety,” he said. Meadows lost his sister and his father to cancer. 

“If that is properly funded, if I come in and I have a pre-existing condition and I’m applying for insurance, not only do I have to be covered, but I get the same rate that you do,” he said. “I just get it handled differently by an invisible high risk pool that’s administered by the state and properly funded so my net premium is no different than yours.”

But that’s a big if. If funding to high-risk pools drop, coverage will dry up for those who need it most.  

“Having that flexibility for insurance providers, we think, is incredibly important,” he said. “If we can do that, we believe that will have the greatest effect on rates and allowing people to make sure it’s affordable.”

Regardless, Meadows still thinks Congress is close to replacing Obamacare, which Trump made a priority during his campaign. 

“I’m still optimistic we can improve the bill and get more consensus among moderates and conservatives both in the Senate and the House and ultimately get it to President Trump’s desk for his signature,” he said.

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