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Ryan: Healthcare Deal Still at 'Conceptual Stage'

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said today that GOPs are still at the “conceptual stage” of figuring out how to tweak the American Health Care Act to get enough votes in the lower chamber.

“These are ongoing talks that we’re having. We want our members to talk with each other about how we can improve the bill to get consensus. Those productive talks are happening. We’re at the concept stages right now,” Ryan told reporters after a closed caucus meeting on Capitol Hill.

“The vice president has been instrumental in bringing together different groups from our conference to talk about concepts,” he added. “So right now, we’re just at that conceptual stage about how to move forward in a way that can get everybody to 216. It’s important that we don’t just win the votes of one caucus or one group, but that we get the votes and the consensus of 216 of our members. And that’s kind of where we are right now.”

“So it’s premature to say where we are or what we’re on, because we’re at that conceptual stage right now.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted Monday night that the conservative House Freedom Caucus “had a good mtg with @VP Pence re health care.”

“No ‘deal’ has been reached, but we’ll review the text of any proposal,” he said.

Amash followed up with another tweet: “Let me reiterate that reports of a ‘deal’ are false. @freedomcaucus hasn’t seen legislative text and has taken no position on the proposal.”

Ryan confirmed today they “don’t have a bill text or an agreement yet.”

“But this is the kind of conversations we want. The authorizers, all the various caucus members, the administration — those productive conversations are happening right now. And we’re all just talking about conceptual levels, about how to improve the ability to get lower — it’s all about getting premiums down. This is all about making more affordable premiums,” he said.

Whereas GOP leaders were keen to get the AHCA approved before the Easter recess, Ryan said today he didn’t want to “put some kind of an artificial deadline” on the new process.

“We have very productive conversations occurring among our members, but those are productive conversations. That doesn’t mean that we have language and text that’s ready to go and the votes are lined up. But that’s what you need to do in order to get that, meaning get members talking. That’s happening. Get everybody engaging with one another. That’s happening,” he said.

“Now, we’re throwing around concepts to improve the bill. That’s occurring right now, but that is not to say that we are ready to go. Because we want to make sure that when we go, we have the votes to pass this bill. We’ve got the consensus that we’ve long been looking for. We’re very close on consensus. Like I said, 90 percent of our conference was already there; 10 percent was not.”