Meadows, conservative House Freedom Caucus leader, has supplanted House Speaker Paul Ryan in garnering GOP backing for the new health care plan now that revisions got his caucus on board.
He told The Tribune he figures he needs “four or five” more moderate Republicans’ support, to get 218 votes to pass the bill in the House, and foresees that happening any day now as colleagues realize how well it is apt to lower insurance rates.
He said a study indicates rates would drop on average 38 percent for those in their sixties, and 55 percent for many others. He was interviewed in-depth by MSNBC early Friday morning. “If premiums come down for Americans,” he said then, “then we have succeeded.”
The more liberal Senate has already planned modifications and is apt to oppose Freedom Caucus revisions, analysts say. The bill at best is destined for a joint conference committee, to try to iron out differences before it can return to each chamber for final passage. To even have that chance, the bill first must pass the House.
A pivotal amendment was drafted last week by GOP House moderate Tuesday Group leader Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), and has Meadows’ backing. He noted it addresses “high-risk” insured people, pricing flexibility by age, and enables states to “waive out” of some federal health care mandates as a compromise to debate over nationwide standards.
Those in their fifties and early sixties can still be charged more than younger people. But the amendment narrows the gap, from up to five times more to a limit of three times costlier.
The amendment reportedly gets insurers off the hook for having to offer certain services now deemed “essential,” and for not getting to charge extra due to health history such diagnosed cancer or other pre-existing conditions.
Afflicted people’s coverages must still be offered. But the Freedom Caucus got its “safety net” insistence that states opting out must install cost protections, such as creating high-risk pools for less-costly group coverage, Meadows noted. Pres. Donald Trump eased off of no surcharges for prior conditions, to seek GOP consensus.
Critics say opting out renders already-ill patients’ coverages unaffordable, or insufficiently bare-bone.
Yet if insurers cannot charge more to those already needing medical care including smokers and others with unhealthy lifestyles, they almost surely offset the revenue loss by raising rates of the healthier majority. This is deemed a primary reason most people’s premiums soared.
The amendment was negotiated largely between MacArthur and Meadows with consultation from White House officials and House leadership.
Meadows is in the media spotlight, as new main spokesman for GOP health care reform. “I have probably talked to more senators on health care, than any other member on the Hill in the last four or five weeks,” he told MSNBC Friday. He said Pres. Trump. and V.P. Mike Pence are working from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, to help line up votes. Meadows said “based on my conversations, I do think that this bill will provide a good foundation — with a few amendments in the Senate — and ultimately will be signed into law by the president.”
He told The Tribune he is able to “tune out some of the negative comments, and focus on lowering premiums.”
The budget is a burning priority. Thursday is when a one-week extension expires to extend federal funding for various departments; extensions may linger week to week. Congress is also busy tackling tax code revisions. Add to that North Korean nuclear testing and Middle East terrorism, in foreign policy.
Shannon Sellers of West Henderson holds her photo of a friend atop a mountain peak on the parkway. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Still, Meadows visited the district for Saturday, before return to D.C. Sunday to prepare for this ultra-busy week. Saturday morning, he hosted the Artistic Discovery Reception in the Historic Courthouse’s upstairs reception room. Dozens jammed the exhibit of 60 pieces of art from 50 high school students from across western North Carolina in Meadows’ 11th congressional district. Each district holds the annual contest, nationwide.
Most area entries were paintings and photos. Themes cannot be political. Size is up to 26 by 26 inches. Three judges chose three winners.
Meadows, in speaking to the crowd, hailed the 50 teen artists’ “incredible talent.”
Hibriten High of Lenoir in Caldwell County took the top two awards. First place went to Amy Avila Martinez. She won a $3,000 art college scholarship, and two round-trip airfares to the contest’s reception in D.C. Each district’s winning entry is displayed for one year in a U.S. Capitol corridor.
She titled her black and white sketch “Querida Abuela,” which is “Dear Grandmother” in Spanish. The stark image is of the wrinkled face of her grandma shortly before she died from cancer in December at age 74, based on a photo. The lady was an avid storyteller. Entries did not describe the subject, so judges did not realize how the portrait memorializes the woman.
Hibriten art teacher Jenna Bailey said her teaching specialty is portraiture. “You see what life the person lived, from the expression — the laugh lines or scowl lines” formed over time. She won this contest in 2005, with a collage as a Gastonia Forestview student.
Hibriten’s Mikayla Watson was second, with “Invisibly Blue.” It is an overhead view of a youth clutching his head in apparent frustration.Third went to “Ode to Ophelia” by Julianna Aiken, of far-away Andrews. The subject has eyes shut, as if reflective. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet’s noblewoman girlfriend Ophelia has inner conflicts.
Hibriten had 10 students enter the contest. Next most were Hendersonville High School’s nine: Zoe Brown, Natalie Fletcher, Elizabeth Huapilla, Mead Krowka, Karina Lubian-Lopez, Gilian Melendez, Amelia Shechet, Sarah Shields and Alexandra Styles.
North Henderson’s four contestants were Baleigh Becker, Thomas Elliot, Kendall Kelly and Eli Ledford. Others from Henderson County were East Henderson’s Sydney Dorn and Barbara Trejo Ramirez, West Henderson’s Shannon Sellers, and Cheyennne Ledbetter of the Early College High School. No contestants were Buncombe students.
Sellers submitted “Clouded Thoughts,” her photo of friend Angela Stansberry atop a mountain peak in the Blue Ridge Parkway last July. Both are West juniors. Sellers swims, and runs cross country.
Sellers appreciates how Meadows recently spoke to some West students. She was among students who role-played, in the “many steps it takes for a bill to become law.”
Sellers aspires to be a doctor, in regenerative medicine. She wants to go to the U.S. Naval Academy. A nomination from the local congressman helps to get in. Thus, Sellers was pleased to meet Rep. Meadows as a first step. She plans to study in the six-day Naval Academy Summer Seminar Program, for rising seniors.
Her parents Jeff and Lisa Sellers are both Army veterans. Lisa was in military intelligence, Jeff in the chemical corps. Jeff is Jacob Holm Industries Americas division’s vice-president for Supply Chain and Operations, at its Candler textile facility that makes non-woven cleaning fabrics.
Sheriff Charlie McDonald told the exhibit crowd Rep. Meadows “truly does care about and is interested in” constituents of various generations and interests.
Case Studies in Free Speech on University Campuses in NC
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