The conservative non-profit Club for Growth has seemingly reversed its stance on President Donald Trump’s healthcare plan. After opposing the first “repeal and replace” bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Club is full-throatedly endorsing — to the tune of $1 million — the White House’s forthcoming second version, based on a state waiver addition proposed by Vice President Mike Pence.
“It’s time for all Republicans to do what they promised and back legislation that really fulfills President Trump’s pledge to end Obamacare and lower health care premiums,” Club for Growth President David MacIntosh told reporters on a call Monday.
Explaining this reversal, MacIntosh explained, “We think the amendment that is being talked about currently that would allow states to waive out of these regulations is the way to go,” noting that the regulations in question “have cost everybody else might higher and escalating premiums.” The specific measures for which states could receive waivers include community ratings and guaranteed-issue essential health benefits.
Andrew Roth, vice president for government affairs, explained that the Club will be spending $1 million in mostly television advertising (with “a small chunk of digital”) to support the new proposal. National ads will start running on Tuesday, while a second phase of ads will launch on Thursday in ten congressional districts represented by Republican moderates, “specifically calling on them to support the real Obamacare repeal that they campaigned on, including this reg waiver.”
While Roth could not announce the ten Congressmen targeted in these forthcoming ads, he could name two of them: Chris Collins, who represents New York’s 27th district, and Adam Kinzinger, who represents Illinois’ 16th district.
Collins, a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, warned that allowing waivers for community ratings “would hurt the vote count” among moderate Republicans like himself, Talking Points Memo reported.
Kinzinger also belongs to the Tuesday Group. In an interview with The Washington Post, he blamed the House Freedom Caucus for stopping the AHCA. “I know why the original [bill] failled, and I know who’s to blame for that. … When we were really close to getting this passed, there was one group that stopped it.”
The first ad, which launches Tuesday, praises President Trump specifically. “He led a movement to make us great again,” the ad declares. “Now, he’s doing what he said, working with conservatives to draft a better bill that lowers premiums, cuts taxes, and repeals Obamacare.”
The ad also shows a picture of North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus. “Conservatives are working to get it done — a big win for American families and our economy,” the ad concludes. “Tell Congress, support Trump’s plan to get rid of Obamacare.”
This marks a stunning reversal from the Club’s previous position. In a statement before the expected vote on the AHCA in late March, MacIntosh denounced the “RyanCare bill,” arguing that it “fails to keep President Trump’s promises of interstate competition and health insurance deregulation.” At the time, the Club had launched a half-million dollar ad campaign against congressman who would vote for the AHCA.
In response to PJ Media’s question about this reversal, MacIntosh admitted the failures of the original bill, arguing that the proposed Pence amendment solved the most important issue.
“We think this is a solution to the number one problem: there was nothing really in the original bill … that dealt with the regulations in Obamacare that have caused extremely costly private sector health insurance,” the Club’s president said. While conservatives would prefer a straight repeal of Title I of Obamacare, “we realize that not everybody in Congress is for that.”
“This effort that Vice President Mike Pence has worked out is a great way to split the middle … to come up with a solution that really would provide relief when a state asks for a waiver from these regulations,” MacIntosh explained.
He noted that a moderate Republican should be able to vote for the new proposal, because states like New York would keep the Obamacare regulations, while a conservative (from Indiana, for instance) would also support it, because it allows his state to “benefit from lower premiums without all those regulatory procedures.”
“This is a solution that can be a win-win.”
But the new proposal does not allow states to opt out of all the regulations in Obamacare’s Title I, the Club’s president added. The specific regulations open for state waivers are essential benefits — the list of things all health insurance policies in the Obamacare marketplaces must cover no matter what, like maternity care for an older man’s health policy — and the community ratings rule, which prevents insurance companies from increasing premiums based on an individual’s geographic location or health status.
“Those are the ones, the big cost drivers for the private insurance, the insurance that our employers pay for,” MacIntosh argued. He admitted that the new proposal leaves in place many Obamacare provisions, such as barring discrimination against women and veterans, mandating coverage despite pre-existing conditions, and requiring coverage of children up to age 26.
MacIntosh presented this as a compromise — the pre-existing conditions and age 26 rules “are a little bit costly,” but conservatives are willing to “leave them in.”
When asked if these provisions would increase the cost of healthcare for sick people, MacIntosh admitted that they would, but he argued that “the pre-existing conditions requirement will help them get insurance and this new risk pool condition will help address their costs.” He was referring to a risk-sharing program which sets aside $15 billion over nine years to reimburse insurers who take on high-risk consumers.
“I think the message is gonna be for 99.9 percent of the people, your premiums are likely to go down,” the Club president declared.
Finally, he addressed the “three phases” concern. When conservatives originally voiced their objections to the AHCA, President Trump announced that there would be three different “phases” of repeal. MacIntosh admitted that “right after the bill was pulled down, we suggested put all three into one bill.”
While the Club now supports the White House’s developing proposal, the organization’s president argued that “step two and step three are still critical to deal with the problems of Obamacare.”
MacIntosh praised Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for putting together a “robust list” of regulatory reforms (stage two of Trump’s “repeal and replace” plan). As for stage three, the Club for Growth president admitted that another bill would have to be passed to “tear down those old barriers that created monopolies in a lot of areas.”
The Club, along with Heritage Action, Freedom Partners, and Americans for Prosperity, was one of the most prominent grassroots conservative organizations opposing AHCA. Now that it is backing this new plan, the next round might go more smoothly.