- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday he’s hopeful that Republicans can rally around a health care bill, but he’s not willing to place odds on their chances of success or a timetable for getting it done after the first try failed in spectacular fashion.

The Wisconsin Republican said his troops were “90 percent” there on the first try last month, yet conservatives said the bill wouldn’t slash premiums, and centrists said too many people would end up uninsured.

“We were very close, but not close enough, so we’ve got to get a little closer, and that means members need to talk to each other and understand each other’s concerns and find where the common ground is,” Mr. Ryan told the WisPolitics Luncheon in D.C.

As it stands, the White House is dispatching Vice President Mike Pence to Capitol Hill to help GOP leaders find the “sweet spot” between the factions.

“We’re having a very productive conversation. We’re all at the concepts stage right now,” Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan’s comments suggest there is little hope of putting a revised bill on the floor before lawmakers leave this weekend for an Easter recess.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the latest Gallup Poll suggested that Republican inability to repeal Obamacare is being accompanied by increasing public support for the long-unpopular program.

The pollsters said 55 percent now approve of the Affordable Care Act, compared to just 42 percent right after the election and the first time Gallup has shown majority support for Obamacare since the pollster started asking about it in 2012.

People of every political affiliation were more likely to support the law than in November, driven in large part by independents, who’ve increased their support by 17 percentage points, compared to 10 each for Republicans and Democrats.

However, only a quarter of Americans want to keep Obamacare as it is. About 40 percent want to reform the law, while 30 percent want to repeal and replace it.

Yet approval ratings have ticked upward of late, as Republicans who control Congress and the White House fail to rally around a replacement plan that can satisfy disparate wings of their own party.

“Trump vehemently attacked the Affordable Care Act during his presidential campaign — and in the days immediately following his election, the public appeared to agree with him,” Gallup said.

“However, in the five months since, as Republicans’ efforts to replace the law with one of their own have failed to get off the ground, enough Americans have changed their minds about the ACA to create a majority favoring it for the first time.”

The GOP had hoped to polish off health care by now and move on to tax reform. Now they’re forced to juggle both at once.

Republicans say they don’t necessarily have to do health care before tax reform, although scrapping Obamacare’s taxes would have shifted fiscal baselines and made it simpler to enact a tax overhaul under a budget procedure that allows it to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

“It clearly makes it easier,” Mr. Ryan said.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus who blasted the first health bill as “Obamacare lite” are reviewing a White House idea that would let states apply for a waiver from insurance regulations that have been blamed for making coverage more expensive for healthier people.

The waivers would eliminate parts of Obamacare requiring a minimum set of benefits in plans and a provision known as “community rating,” which requires insurers to charge the same amount to people who are the same age and live in the same area.

No one’s produced legislative text, however, and the proposal could alienate moderates who fear the changes would allow insurers to charge sick people exorbitantly higher prices than healthy ones, even if insurers couldn’t technically deny those with preexisting conditions.

The House GOP’s own website says Americans “should never be denied coverage or charged more because of a preexisting condition.”

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