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High-Risk Pools Another Sticking Point Among Republicans

(Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday expressed opposition to House GOP leaders’ plan to cover people with pre-existing conditions, highlighting another division that Republicans must overcome to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

The Kentucky Republican said it doesn’t make “logical sense” to allocate federal funds to help states run high-risk pools, which would be used to cover people who would be priced out of the marketplace if Obamacare is repealed. While dollar amounts haven’t been decided on, a leaked draft bill would divide $100 billion among the states over a decade to go to high-risk pools and other health care needs.

“I think buying insurance for people that already have enormous bills doesn’t make any sense,” Paul said in an brief interview on Capitol Hill.

Paul said a better alternative, which is included in his own Obamacare replacement plan, is to keep high-risk individuals in the marketplace and allow them to join together as an association to buy health insurance as a group. That approach is backed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

“Under my plan, everybody would be able to join an association,” Paul said. “An association is a group plan, they would still be protected. So really the high-risk people would be spread into the general pool under my plan.”

Medicaid would likely be able to cover sick people who are priced out of the market as well, Paul said.

Senate Republicans are slated to meet with the two committee chairs leading the House GOP effort to replace Obamacare this afternoon. Republicans are also divided over whether to provide refundable tax credits to help Americans buy insurance, and what to do with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

“They need to be open to hear from conservatives that we’re not happy with ‘Obamacare lite’ and we’re not voting for ‘Obamacare lite,'” Paul told reporters, speaking of the upcoming meeting with Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).