- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2017

Conservative lawmakers emerged from a White House meeting with President Trump Thursday saying they still had no deal to vote for a crucial bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus said Mr. Trump offered them nothing new. The White House said Mr. Trump was bringing back moderate House Republicans for another pitch later in the day, with the crucial vote expected Thursday evening.

Conservatives said they were considering their options.

“We’re all trying to get to ‘yes’ because we want President Trump to have a successful agenda,” said Rep. Dave Brat, Virginia Republican. “We’ll see what happens.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican, said “nothing new” was agreed upon.

However, some of the conservative lawmakers told Mr. Trump they would vote with him.

Mr. Spicer said the president thanked the Freedom Caucus “for their willingness to work closely with the White House and their colleagues in Congress to craft the strongest possible bill.”

“This meeting was a positive step toward that goal,” Mr. Spicer said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer called it “just the latest in a series of discussion” with lawmakers and said Mr. Trump had invited members of the moderate Republican “Tuesday Group” back to the White House.

Mr. Spicer said the White House was engaged in a “balancing act” as the administration tries to modify the bill to appeal to conservatives without losing the support of moderates, and vice versa. He predicted the president will prevail.

“We walked out with more members in support of the American Health Care Act today than we started the day with,” he said. “And I continue to see that number climb hour by hour. I anticipate that we will get there. We continue to see the number go up, not down, and that’s a very positive sign.”

Conservatives want to eliminate Obamacare’s insurance regulations and coverage requirements known as “essential benefits,” which include things like prescription drugs and maternity care, saying it’s the only change that will bring down premiums.

Yet party leaders worry that doing so would flout budget rules needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate, or kick off major fiscal changes that could impact their “score” from the Congressional Budget Office.

Policy analysts say the push to eliminate the essential benefits would have two main consequences.

Consumers may skimp on benefits like mental health or drug addiction, only to realize they need them later, while those who need specific benefits could end up paying a lot more, since insurers can’t spread out their risk among a large pool of customers.

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