Oregon Rep. Greg Walden told Republican activists Saturday that he’s close to producing a bill that will serve as his party’s chief vehicle for replacing the Affordable Care Act.
However, Walden told reporters later that key Republicans are still hashing out how to deal with Medicaid, the federal program that the Obama administration expanded to help subsidize coverage for poorer recipients.
He said that current Medicaid recipients could continue to get the same coverage but that the federal government might not provide as much aid for future recipients because “this is not sustainable.”
Walden said in a speech at the annual Dorchester Conference in Salem that he has been negotiating the details with House Speaker Paul Ryan and top Trump administration officials on how they were going to “repeal and replace Obamacare very, very soon.”
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the veteran GOP congressman from Hood River has been the point person on the contentious issue for his party in the House.
Walden has made a point of saying that he’ll protect the most popular pieces of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. He has pledged Republicans will continue to prohibit insurance policies that deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or that have lifetime coverage caps.
Walden also told reporters that he doesn’t want to jeopardize care going to current Medicaid recipients.
“If you’re on Medicaid today, you’ll be on Medicaid tomorrow,” he said. “We’re not going to pull the rug out. Oregon has what it has.”
The federal government now pays more than 90 percent of the cost of subsidies for that expanded Medicaid population. Future recipients will continue to eligible for coverage, he said, “but it may not be at the same rate, OK? Because this is not sustainable.”
Walden expressed disdain for the media circus that took place Thursday after he began privately showing drafts of his health care bill to Republican members of his committee.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants the House to take a harder line on repealing the Obama health care law and took reporters on a search through the Capitol for a room where the bill was supposedly being kept in secret. He toted a printer behind him. Democrats also engaged with reporters: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted a picture of bloodhounds racing up marble steps.
“I spent an hour briefing Rand Paul and the other Republican senators last week. He had every opportunity to ask every question,” Walden said. “Let’s face it, it was great political theater … The little media stunt with the copy machine in an office over in the Capitol is kind of silly.”
Walden, Oregon’s only Republican in Congress, said he’ll release the bill when it is complete and everyone will have plenty of time to digest it before the committee begins voting on the issue.