Meadows ‘intrigued’ on Obamacare change after Pence meeting

President Donald Trump’s administration had meetings Monday with two key groups of Republicans, whose split over health care policy caused GOP leaders to pull a plan last month to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Emerging from a meeting Monday night with Vice President Mike Pence, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said his group was “intrigued” by an idea the White House floated to give states more flexibility to opt out of Obamacare regulations using a waiver process, but Meadows wouldn’t promise the Freedom Caucus would be on board in the end.

“No one made any definitive changes in terms of moving from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ primarily because there is not enough detail to do so,” Meadows said. “But I can tell you all the ‘no’s,’ every one of the ‘no’s,’ expressed a willingness to look at this in a very detailed manner.”

While Meadows stressed that there was no deal in principle and members were still awaiting legislative text to be finalized in the next 24 hours, the general idea would be that states could chose not to require insurers to cover things like “essential health benefits” required under Obamacare now. That would mean insurers would not have to cover services like hospitalization or maternity care. Conservatives have wanted to remove that requirement in any GOP passed plan, while some moderates have wanted to keep them in.

Also on the table, Meadows said, was the idea that insurers could opt out of community health ratings, which currently ban insurers from charging higher premiums based on gender or health history.

Meadows continued to stress that while he was pleased with the progress, there wasn’t any final deal.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have been the target of the White House’s ire in recent days, with Trump tweeting directly at specific members after they were opposed to the health care bill.

When asked about timeline, Meadows demurred saying only that he didn’t want to put an “artificial” deadline on the process.

Leadership aides stressed that the Freedom Caucus was having productive discussions.

Earlier Monday, some House members who are part of the moderate Tuesday Group met at the White House to discuss changes to the health care bill supported by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Those moderates met with Pence, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden.

At the Tuesday Group meeting, the sampling of moderates included Reps. Pat Tiberi, Rodney Davis, Tom MacArthur and others.

Those participating in the Tuesday Group meeting were all members who’d originally expressed support for the GOP health care plan. They discussed changing the bill slightly so that some states would be able to opt out of some Obamacare regulations.

“We appreciated then coming to us with it,” Collins said of the meeting. Collins added he thinks there has been some “soul searching,” but stressed this is not a deal.