Moderates balk at conservative-backed, revised health bill

The moribund Republican health care bill received a jolt of life when the conservative House Freedom Caucus endorsed a revised version of the measure. But a leading GOP moderate criticized the reshaped legislation as a conservative exercise in “blame-shifting and face-saving” that wasn’t winning new support from party centrists, leaving its fate unclear.

The embrace by the hard-line Freedom Caucus Wednesday supplied fresh votes and momentum for GOP leaders, who also lined up behind the plan and crave a legislative victory for themselves and President Donald Trump. Opposition by most of the caucus’ roughly three dozen members was a major factor when House leaders canceled a vote on the legislation last month in a mortifying setback for the party.

The changes would let states escape a requirement under President Barack Obama’s health care law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. They could also be exempted from Obama’s mandate that insurers cover a list of services like maternity care, and from its bar against charging older customers more than triple their rates for younger ones.

Conservatives embraced the revisions as a way to lower people’s health care expenses, but moderates saw them as diminishing coverage because insurers could make policies for their most ill — and expensive — customers too costly for them to afford.

“I have always campaigned on making sure that no one is denied coverage based on pre-existing condition,” said Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., who said he remained opposed to the legislation.

The Freedom Caucus turnabout also shifts pressure for passing the bill — a top priority for the GOP — onto party moderates. They are certain to come under intense lobbying from the White House and party leaders to jump on board.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the proposal “helps us get to consensus,” but stopped short of saying it would win them enough votes to finally prevail.

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