(Fixing typo in headline)
By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan
WASHINGTON, March 17 U.S. President Donald Trump
on Friday stepped up his fight for support on Republicans' plan
to dismantle Obamacare, wooing some conservative lawmakers at
the White House while legislation advanced toward a possible
vote in the House of Representatives next week.
Republicans remain deeply divided over their U.S. healthcare
overhaul, Trump's first major legislative initiative and one
that aims to make good on his campaign pledge to repeal and
replace the healthcare plan put in place by his Democratic
predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump met at the White House on Friday with 13 members of
the House Republican Study Committee, a large group of
conservative lawmakers seeking changes to Medicaid, the joint
federal-state health insurance program for the poor.
"I'm 100 percent behind this," Trump told reporters after
Trump said all the lawmakers in attendance now supported the
healthcare bill after previously questioning it.
"We made certain changes but frankly very little," he said.
U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price also did his part to win
over reluctant Republican lawmakers in a meeting at the Capitol.
The healthcare measure championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan
passed through a key House panel on Thursday despite objections
by some conservatives who consider it too similar to the 2010
law that became known as Obamacare.
The Republicans' proposed replacement plan still faces a
battle in the full House and then the Senate, despite efforts by
the White House and Republican leaders to satisfy conservative
opponents who are pushing for several changes.
Democrats have roundly rejected the Republicans proposal,
saying it harms the poor, elderly and working families while
offering tax cuts to rich Americans and companies.
Price told reporters on Friday the proposal addressed
several issues important to Trump, such as maintaining insurance
coverage of patients with pre-existing medical conditions.
"The president's very supportive of this plan, thinks that
it addresses his priorities," Price said at a news conference
ahead of a meeting with House Republicans to help coalesce
Without Democratic support, Republicans cannot afford to
lose many votes from their own ranks, even though they control
both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House.
Conservatives have criticized the legislation as too similar
to Obama's law. Some have said they want a quicker end to
Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid, while others are concerned
about insurance costs for consumers.
Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative
House Freedom Caucus, wants changes in private insurance
mandates that he says will lower healthcare premiums.
But after Friday's meeting with Price, he expressed
frustration there were no commitments from leadership on any
changes except a possible optional work requirement on Medicaid,
which "doesn't move the ball more than a couple yards on a very
long playing field."
He said his group has spoken with Senate Republicans about
potential changes and will propose an amendment on Monday.
Several Senate Republicans also have said they would reject
the measure in its current form.
Obamacare expanded insurance to about 20 million Americans
but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Monday
that 14 million Americans would lose medical insurance by next
year under the Republican plan.
The CBO projected 52 million people would be uninsured by
2026 if the bill became law, compared with 28 million who would
not have coverage that year if the law remained unchanged.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan; Writing by Susan Heavey;
Editing by Bill Trott)