DENVER – U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman presented his new plan to alter the Affordable Care Act to House Republicans and also discussed it with Sen. Cory Gardner, who told his fellow Republican he’d pass the plan onto Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Coffman says he spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan one-on-one about the proposal last night, and again today in front of the House Republican Conference at a 9 a.m. ET meeting.
But he admitted that the Senate’s objectives with its bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), and any more draft discussion bills the Senate releases this week will be the priority in Congress for now.
“The response from the Speaker of the House when I talked to him is, ‘Look, it’s over in the Senate right now. It’s up to the Senate to come up with something,’” Coffman said. “He personally supports the aggressive position of going all-in on Medicaid that I didn’t support.”
He said he believes that the Senate will eventually pass some sort of bill, and that the House will likely then vote on the bill without amendments.
Senate Republicans haven’t yet been able to get a bill on the floor due to concerns from a handful of Republicans about Medicaid coverage. The House narrowly passed its version of the bill, the American Health Care Act, in early May. Coffman voted against that bill.
“The Senate will come to an agreement at some point,” Coffman said. “They will pass a bill out and then, in the House, it will be an up-or-down vote on whatever the Senate passes without amendments.”
“If they can’t, my guess is Mitch McConnell would rather personally not go with my proposal; he’d rather go with something that came over from the House. But if he can’t get enough votes to do that, then he’s going to have to look at alternatives, and so my hope is that my proposal would be that alternative,” Coffman said.
But he says he walked away from his conversation with Gardner on Wednesday believing the senator would at least talk with McConnell about it.
“I think [Gardner] likes the concept. He did express some concern: Could they get bipartisan support for the health insurance part of the ACA?” Coffman said. “From my perspective, I said I thought they could get 60 votes for it. He had a concern about that.”
He admitted that his proposal “will be there as a backup” should Senate Republicans not be able to get a bill to the floor or to pass—something he also had some ideas about.
“Quite frankly, I hope they don’t have the vote. I hope it will be the proposal, because I think the bipartisanship part is important,” Coffman said. “So from my perspective, if they don’t come up with the votes, I think that’s a good thing, and they have to fall back on my proposal.”
There was talk Wednesday in Washington that Senate Republicans could unveil an updated draft discussion bill on Thursday, as McConnell has been pushing for a new bill this week and a vote next week.
But on Tuesday, he called for the first two weeks of the Senate’s August work recess to be canceled to work on policy priorities, which will include health care if a bill doesn’t pass next week.
His proposal, in short, offers three different changes to various parts of Obamacare he says will be a fix: use reconciliation to address the Medicaid expansion facet of Obamacare and repeal the individual and employer mandates; use reconciliation to reform Obamacare’s tax code, along with other tax reforms that Republicans have said they will work to fix this year; and work with both parties to fix the health care exchanges that people on both sides of the aisle have said are the key problem with Obamacare.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition thanked Coffman for what they called “a more reasonable proposal to address health care reform.”
“While we do not agree with every suggestion and think everyone should have quality affordable health care, we have said throughout this debate that both the House and Senate reform bills go well beyond anything having to do with the Affordable Care Act … CCDC appreciates Coffman’s call for a bipartisan approach. Our experience has always been that Democrats and Republicans can work together for the best interests of our state.”
But as she did Tuesday, executive director Julie Rieskin said the group did have concerns about a reduction in the federal match for the Medicaid expansion population that Coffman’s proposal contains.
“The state decision to cover this population was made based on a promise from the federal government, that promise should not be broken,” Rieskin said. “Moreover, the expansion has brought great economic benefit to Colorado and reduced uncompensated care.”
Coffman also announced Wednesday he'd be hosting a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 6-7 p.m. at Prairie View High School in Henderson. It will be free and open to residents of his district.