KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Struggles, False Starts Leach Momentum From GOP’s Whirlwind Repeal And Replace Efforts

As efforts to unify behind one plan founder, some Republicans are starting to embrace the idea of "repair" instead of "replace." But House lawmakers are calling on their party to continue to move forward with repeal, a sentiment echoed by the vice president.

The New York Times: G.O.P. Campaign To Repeal Obamacare Stalls On The Details
Congress’s rush to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, once seemingly unstoppable, is flagging badly as Republicans struggle to come up with a replacement and a key senator has declared that the effort is more a repair job than a demolition. “It is more accurate to say ‘repair Obamacare,’” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, said this week. “We can repair the individual market, and that is a good place to start.” (Pear and Abelson, 2/2)

The Associated Press: With Unity Elusive, GOP Talks More Of Repairing Health Law
While insisting they've not abandoned their goal of repealing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republicans are increasingly talking about "repairing" it as they grapple with disunity, drooping momentum and uneasy voters. The GOP triumphantly shoved a budget through Congress three weeks ago that gave committees until Jan. 27 to write bills dismantling the law and substituting a Republican plan. Everyone knew that deadline was soft, but now leaders are talking instead about moving initial legislation by early spring. (Fram and Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/3)

The Washington Post: Two Top Republicans Open To Repairing Obamacare Ahead Of Repeal
Two top Republicans long expected to lead the Senate’s role in repealing the Affordable Care Act said publicly this week that they are open to repairing former president Barack Obama’s landmark health-care law ahead of a wholesale repeal, which has been a GOP target for eight years. Coming one week after a closed-door strategy session in which Republicans expressed frank concerns about the political ramifications of repealing the law and the practical difficulties of doing so, statements this week by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) brought into public view the political and policy challenges the GOP is facing. (Snell and DeBonis, 2/2)

Bloomberg: U.S. House Begins Work On First Policies To Change Obamacare 
The first legislative effort to make changes to Obamacare got underway in the U.S. House of Representatives, the beginning of what is expected to be a long and contentious process. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health panel is examining drafts of four bills Thursday that will likely serve as a basis for some of Republicans’ earliest moves to replace pieces of the massive health-care law that they’ve vowed to repeal. (Edney, 2/2)

The Hill: House Conservatives Warn Against Weakening ObamaCare Repeal Bill 
Two top House conservatives are calling on Republican leadership to bring up for a vote the ObamaCare repeal bill that passed early last year, worrying that the party could pass a smaller bill that repeals less of the law. The bill that passed early last year and was vetoed by President Obama repeals many core elements of ObamaCare, including its subsidies, mandates, taxes and Medicaid expansion. (Sullivan, 2/2)

Morning Consult: Freedom Caucus Calls For Vote On 2015 ACA Repeal Bill
The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and the conservative group’s former chair are calling for a vote on a 2015 bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, suggesting an emerging rift between conservatives and GOP leaders over how quickly to act on former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Republican leaders, including President Donald Trump, have emphasized taking time to craft a replacement plan for Obamacare before overturning the law. (McIntire, 2/2)

The Hill: Pence Reaffirms Plans To 'Repeal And Replace' ObamaCare 
Vice President Pence on Thursday reaffirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act amid calls from Republican lawmakers to merely "repair" the healthcare law. “We are absolutely committed to follow through on President Trump’s directive to repeal and replace ObamaCare and to have the Congress do it at the same time,” Pence told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “The president’s made it very clear we are having ongoing discussions with leadership, with the House and Senate. But this is the president’s leadership, Sean, I've got to tell you,” he continued. (Greenwood, 2/27)

Morning Consult: House Committee Weighs First Obamacare Replacement Bills
The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee discussed drafts of four bills which each address piecemeal issues within the larger Affordable Care Act, including how to deal with people who have pre-existing health conditions, how much more to charge seniors compared to young people, and how to spur people to keep continuous coverage throughout their lives. Many Republicans, including Committee Chair Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), have said that they won’t put forward one major Obamacare replacement bill but will instead replace the law with a set of smaller measures. (McIntire, 2/2)

The Hill: House Considers Elements Of ObamaCare Replacement 
Republicans have begun considering a handful of bills that could make up part of their plan to replace ObamaCare. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, a key player in the fight over ObamaCare, is considering legislation that will likely serve as guidance for the GOP as lawmakers seek to dismantle the healthcare law they vowed to repeal.   The drafts would change ObamaCare provisions related to pre-existing conditions and the age rating, which determines how much older people can be charged for insurance. (Hellmann, 2/2)

And in other news —

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Weigh Moves To Bolster Health Law
On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, sent a proposed rule on shoring up the individual insurance market under the ACA to the Office of Management and Budget for White House review. The details of what the proposed rule would do still aren’t public, but people involved in the drafting of the proposal say it aims to help bolster the ACA exchange markets at least in the short term. That doesn’t suggest a full reversal of Republicans’ repeal-and-replace strategy, but GOP lawmakers say they are now considering moves to retain and prop up important parts of the law while they consider larger changes. (Armour, Peterson and Hackman, 2/2)

Kaiser Health News: HSAs: ‘Tax-Break Trifecta’ Or Insurance Gimmick Benefiting The Wealthy?
They are just three little words — “health savings accounts” — but they are generating a lot of buzz as Republicans contemplate plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Expanding the use of such accounts, based on a long-held conservative view that consumers should be more responsible for their health care spending, is part of almost every GOP replacement plan under consideration on Capitol Hill. (Appleby, 2/3)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.