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House GOP Leaders Move to Tweak Health-Care Bill

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03/20/2017 | 11:30pm CEST
By Kristina Peterson and Stephanie Armour 

House Republican leaders moved Monday to adjust their bill dismantling the Affordable Care Act, but whether those changes would draw enough wavering Republicans remained unclear just days before the full chamber is scheduled to vote on the legislation.

"We've spent the last week and weekend listening to our colleagues both from the House and the Senate about ways we can improve this legislation, " House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) said. He said GOP leaders would later Monday release later a package of changes to the bill.

The bill repeals much of the 2010 health-care law and replaces it with tax credits aimed at helping people afford insurance. A vote in the full House is expected Thursday. GOP leaders say they are confident of passage, but they are still making efforts to ensure Republican support.

President Donald Trump is intensifying his lobbying, with an appearance scheduled Tuesday at the weekly closed-door meeting of House Republicans. It will be Mr. Trump's first huddle with all House Republicans since his inauguration.

Republicans can lose no more than 21 GOP votes to clear the bill in the House, where no Democrats are expected to vote for it. Mr. Brady said he expected the changes Monday evening would include concessions won by lawmakers belonging to Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House members. Some of those lawmakers met Friday with Mr. Trump at the White House.

To answer their concerns, the bill will be tweaked to permit states to impose a work requirement on some Medicaid beneficiaries. The bill will also be changed to give states more options in how they receive federal Medicaid funding, which would be curtailed under the House GOP plan.

GOP leaders are also expected to include a measure sought by New York Republicans intended to largely stop the state from raising Medicaid funding through county taxes. Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.) said the change was popular, since it could lower property taxes people pay, building support for the health bill among the New York delegation.

GOP leaders are also expected to adjust the bill's centerpiece tax credits, which some lawmakers worry aren't generous enough to enable low-income and older people to buy coverage. Under the current bill, the credits start at $2,000 for those under age 30 and increase up to $4,000 for those 60 and older. GOP leaders aim to provide extra relief for those between the ages of 50 and 65, when people can enroll in Medicare.

They are also weighing a speedier start date for repealing some of the ACA's taxes.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release an updated projection before Thursday's vote on the legislation's budget impact and its effect on the number of people with insurance. The office last week estimated that the bill would cause 24 million fewer people to be insured over a decade compared with the ACA.

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com

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