No clear path forward seen for health care proposals

WASHINGTON — Republican, Democratic and even bipartisan plans for reshaping parts of the Obama health care law are proliferating in Congress. But they have iffy prospects at best, and there were no signs Monday that GOP leaders have chosen a fresh pathway after last week’s collapse of their struggle to repeal and rewrite the statute.

Despite a weekend of tweets from President Trump insisting that the Senate revisit the issue, Republican prospects for garnering 50 votes to push something through the chamber seemed to worsen after Sen. John McCain returned to Arizona for brain cancer treatments. He was among three GOP senators who joined Democrats in opposing a bare-bones bill rolling back a few pieces of President Barack Obama’s statute, dealing it a stunning 51-49 defeat, and his absence probably denies leaders their best chance of turning that vote around.

“If the question is do I think we should stay on health care until we get it done, I think it’s time to move on to something else,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the GOP leadership team.

Rather than resuming its health care debate, the Senate began considering a judicial nomination Monday.

In the House, 43 Democratic and Republican moderates proposed a plan that includes continuing federal payments that help insurers contain expenses for lower-earning customers and limiting Obama’s requirement that larger employers offer coverage to workers. But movements by House centrists seldom bear fruit in the House, where the rules give the majority party ironclad control, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered little encouragement.

“While the speaker appreciates members coming together to promote ideas, he remains focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

The House approved its health care overhaul in May after barely overcoming its own GOP divisions.

Trump has threatened anew in recent days to cut off the payments to insurers, which total $7 billion this year and are helping trim out-of-pocket costs for 7 million people. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump will decide this week whether to pay them in August, and insurers have cited the monthly uncertainty as a factor in rising premiums.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said GOP leaders should “follow the example of their members releasing some proposals with Democrats today” and engage in “serious bipartisan conversations.”

Shortly after the Senate rejected his last-ditch bill Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invited Democrats to present their ideas on the issue. But he quickly constructed an obstacle for one top Democratic desire: continuing the payments to insurers.

“Bailing out insurance companies with no thought of any kind of reform is not something I want to be part of,” McConnell said.

Alan Fram is an Associated Press writer.


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