When Republican Congressman John Shimkus expressed outrage during a House committee hearing Wednesday “about men having to purchase prenatal care” in their health insurance -– the video clip of which caught fire on social media as an example of misogyny and cluelessness — he wasn’t going rogue. He was just getting ahead of party leaders, who haven’t publicly announced their next steps quite yet.
In a conference call with GOP allies on Thursday, however, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers outlined the party’s “three-phase approach” to repealing the Affordable Care Act and suggested that the Essential Benefits Package, a provision of the law with sweeping consumer protections, could soon be on the chopping block. The benefits package, a core provision of the ACA, requires qualifying health insurance plans to cover a set of medical treatments, including pregnancy-related medical care.
The conference call was for other Republican House members and state leaders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential conservative advocacy group that brings lawmakers and lobbyists together to form policy solutions. It was obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy.
The Republican legislation currently under consideration in Congress, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is only the first phase, she said. She explained that it might appear narrow in scope only because the legislation was crafted in order to meet rules set by reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows a filibuster-proof 51 vote threshold for passage in the Senate.
“Phase 2 is the administrative action,” she said. That means unwinding regulations that could not be addressed in the current, reconciliation-based legislation.
“Obamacare gave the Secretary of Health and Human Services 1,442 instances of discretion to administer health care,” McMorris Rodgers said. “For example, the Essential Benefits Package is within the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” The Essential Benefits Package requires health plans to cover 10 core areas of medical care, including hospitalization, pregnancy and newborn care, prescription drugs, mental health, lab work, and preventive services.
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