Meadows’ message on ACA is heard loud and clear

“More for less” — that’s the message Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, is trying to send to Congress and President Donald Trump about the Affordable Care Act.

But to some, that message sounds a lot like “less for less,” or even “less for more.”

“On the healthcare front, we continue to make steps in a positive direction,” Meadows told reporters on an April 6 conference call. “I can tell you we had a number of discussions with the administration and with the leadership here in the House, and a very long conversation yesterday with the President and Vice President on a path forward.”

As the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Meadows was instrumental in derailing a repeal-and-replace plan contrived by Trump in conjunction with House leaders late in March. 

Currently, the ACA — also called Obamacare — prohibits health insurers from charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions and also stipulates that their coverage plans include so-called “essential health benefits” like ambulatory and emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and pediatric care, mental health and addiction treatment, prescription drugs, physical rehabilitation, lab work and wellness treatments. 

Meadows said that he’s hopeful that states could apply for a waiver allowing them to remove some or all of those essential benefits. 

“I can tell you that the waiver idea still remains to be the one that is creating the last hurdle for getting something passed,” he said. “I put it in a property-casualty analogy — it’s like saying you’ve got to buy homeowners insurance, but you also have to buy boat insurance, you have to buy gun insurance, and you have to buy motorcycle insurance, even though you may not have a gun, a motorcycle, or a boat.” 

Regarding pre-existing conditions, Meadows favors a high-risk insurance pool similar to that created for high-risk drivers that insurers are reluctant to cover.

“There is one amendment that is getting ruled in order that a number of us have been encouraging, which is a risk sharing component that would allow for — in the very short-term — the federal government to set up risk sharing,” Meadows said, calling it “an invisible underwriting pool which would actually allow people who have pre-existing conditions where their insurance has gotten too expensive to be underwritten at a state level that is federally funded in order to bring those premiums down into a place where they are affordable.”

Including the high-risk pool and the elimination of essential health benefits is central to Meadows’ “more for less” stance that he says will allow insurers to craft custom policies that ensure people aren’t forced to pay for coverage they don’t need, in effect driving down premiums.  

“It essentially gives 100 percent guaranteed access to healthcare,” he said. “We believe that by getting rid of some of the insurance mandates, that drives premiums down and doesn’t affect coverage.”

The day before Trump’s inauguration, Meadows told The Smoky Mountain News in his D.C. office that he recognized that 646,000 people in North Carolina receive subsidized health care, and that his rural district — encompassing some of the poorer counties in the state — had a greater-than-average need for coverage. 

“I believe that we will have more people that are actually covered,” he said of replacement plans for the ACA at the time, “but more people that will be able to afford that coverage.”

Meadows also said he’d work hard to ensure that those most in need wouldn’t suffer. 

“Taking the rug out from underneath people who have coverage is certainly not the thing to do,” he said at the time. “It’s not the compassionate thing to do, and not something I would support. Even politically, it’s not the thing to do. So I don’t see that happening; in fact, I’m committed to making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Along those same lines, Meadows said that one of the items that should remain in any replacement plan would be allowing those under 26 years of age to stay on their parents’ plan. 

How ever it eventually shakes out, Meadows is assured of having a larger-than-usual say in the matter, owing to his influence among the 30-odd members of the Freedom Caucus; the three-term Republican is seen as the face of conservatives across the country, and regularly appears on nationally distributed radio and television programs. 

The House went into recess on April 7 and will not return to work until April 25, but Meadows wouldn’t rule out returning to Washington if a compromise could be worked out over the long break; the Senate, which went into recess April 8, returns to the capitol April 24.



Make your voice heard

Two upcoming forums in Waynesville will soon be held to address the “repeal-and-replace” of the Affordable Care Act, as well as other concerns relating to federal health care policy. Both meetings are free and open to the public. 

Healthcare Information Forum

An ad-hoc group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Healthcare will host a “Healthcare Information Forum” to discuss the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drugs, and the so-called “donut hole.” All are welcome, however, according to local pediatrician Dr. Stephen Wall, elected officials have not been formally invited to speak. 

• Location: HART Theatre, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville

• Date: April 20

• Time: 5:30 p.m.

Progressive Nation Town Hall

Our Revolution AVL, The Burke County Democratic Party, The Burke County Young Democrats and Progressive Nation WNC will host what they’re calling a “Mark Meadows Town Hall” despite the fact that he won’t be there; event organizers, however, say that a “progressive organizer and working class community member” will declare their candidacy for Meadows’ seat during the meeting. 

• Location: Haywood County Court House

• Date: April 23

• Time: 3 p.m.

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