Exclusive—Tuesday Group Co-chair MacArthur on Lessons Learned from AHCA: Include All Members

Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) told Breitbart News that House leadership should include more members in the process for drafting legislation, saying, “It’s important that we include all members.”

Congressman Tom MacArthur brokered a deal with Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) that assembled enough votes to pass a health care overhaul package through the House. The deal, known as the MacArthur amendment, would allow states to obtain waivers to eliminate Obamacare regulations such as essential health benefits and community ratings, regulations that MacArthur argues drive up the cost of premiums and deductibles.

The previous version of AHCA failed to garner enough support after Speaker Paul Ryan drafted the bill with little input from rank-and-file members of the House. The bill also retained many aspects of Obamacare. Critics dubbed the previous version of the American Health Care Act, “Obamacare-Lite” and “Ryancare.”

Congressman MacArthur told Breitbart News that he was relieved to see the bill pass through Congress and that this bill will lower premiums. He said:

I’m glad we got it through. I think it’s really necessary that we at least start moving forward on a fix for the health care system before it collapses further. I’ve been careful since yesterday, I don’t want to get too much into cheering as I watch the Democrats jeering and I think that’s inappropriate. We got to remember there’s a lot of Americans that are scared right now because they don’t understand what was done. You know, they’ve been listening to tens of millions of dollars worth of paid lies that tried to instill people’s fears. I’m going to try to help people at home and across the country, they need to understand this will help them, not hurt them. It will help those with pre-existing conditions but also bring costs down for the rest of the country. People are struggling across the country to pay for health insurance and decide to go without. Obamacare failed. While it covered a lot more people, it failed to do it in a sustainable way, and it failed to do it in a way that did not hurt millions of other people. I think we have to help the American people understand and that’s my focus right now.

The Tuesday Group co-chairman explained the process by which he and the Freedom Caucus chairman brokered a deal on the health care bill. MacArthur shared:

Well, it came about because the week before the Easter break, there were attempts to bridge this divide between what the Freedom Caucus pushed and what the center-right Republicans wanted. When it collapsed, I really thought it was a lost opportunity, I really saw us much closer than what was being acknowledged. And what I admired about the what the Freedom Caucus was pushing for is in my view that they rightfully recognized that if we didn’t change the regulations, if we didn’t give the states any flexibility there was simply no way they could bring costs down. That’s part of the problem, everyone is talking about pre-existing conditions and protecting people, but we have to bring costs down. In any event, we went home over recess, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I started crafting an amendment to give states the flexibility to handle the most costly parts of Obamacare.

I took it to the Speaker, who thought that it had potential and asked me to speak to Mark [Meadows] and you know Mark and I were getting to know each other before we left to go on the break. We often huddled together on the floor to discuss ideas, I like him and I know there’s a lot of noise about the Freedom Caucus but what I like about them is that they’re focused on policy. They’re not just focused on the politics of what we do; they’re trying to get it right. I don’t find it impossible to work with them at all. So Mark and I started talking over the break about my amendment, and he told me what mattered to his group and made some changes to it, and we actually agreed with each other on the solution. I went ahead and proposed it with the hope that he would get more of his guys to join. He said to me all along that this is far from what they want, his group wanted a full repeal of Title I. I guess they realized that this is the furthest they could get at this point.

Tom MacArthur said that he coordinated with the president, vice president, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus during the health care negotiation. He recounted:

I frequently spoke with the Vice President throughout the process. Moreover, Reince and I spoke throughout the recess, but the Vice President was the person I spoke with the most. I spoke with the President a number of times as well. I spoke with the Speaker’s health care staffer, Matt Hoffman, who gave us technical advice and spoke with the Energy and Commerce staff to help draft this legislation. The Vice President was checking in fairly regularly, I think that he has clearly been very interested in this whole process.

MacArthur continued, telling Breitbart News that by incorporating more rank-and-file members into the legislative process, they can avoid more missteps in the House. He said:

I think that one clear lesson on any significant legislation we have to leave plenty of time, open ended time, and make sure we get to a real consensus that people can vote on. It’s important that we include all members, the committee especially needs to be involved, but I think there’s a number of people that need input that are not on the committee and sometimes that’s necessary even. I’m glad I could play that role on this bill.

MacArthur believes that passing tax reform will go smoother than passing a health care overhaul. The New Jersey congressman told Breitbart News:

I hope tax reform goes more smoothly. I think tax reform in some regards is an easier lift, it’s not as visceral as health care, it’s not as emotional as health care. You know with health care you get people Jimmy Kimmel on air who tell a heart-wrenching story and makes people feel that our bill must be bad. I don’t think you’re going to get those types of stories out of tax reform. I think that should help cooler heads prevail. We’re doing a repeal and replace of Dodd-Frank, and I don’t think that will have the same sort of emotional intensity either.

“We passed the Financial Choice Act out of committee yesterday. It repeals the Volcker Rule, it reigns in the CFPB, and I think that it will help community banks prosper. I voted quite happily for the Choice Act,” he added.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday, MacArthur said we should put “people over politics.” MacArthur elaborated on that sentiment, telling Breitbart News:

I think that it’s very important for the Republican party and for people to know that we’re not just celebrating a political win. We’re doing what we believe will fix the health care system. A lot of people are just not aware of what’s going on. Insurers are leaving in droves. Premiums and deductibles are soaring, and people are not able to afford insurance.

I think when the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act I don’t think they thought about whether or not it will last, they thought that if it fails then the government will just take over and I think that was a perfectly acceptable outcome for them. It’s not an acceptable outcome to have another segment of health care taken over by the government. All you’ll have is bureaucrats deciding how much coverage you get, how many hospitals get paid, how much doctors get paid, you’ll have bureaucrats deciding how long you’ll have to recover from a knee surgery. That is not how America works. America thrives best when we have insurers competing with each other and offering the best products and putting pressure on insurers to lower costs when health care providers work with insurers to make sure costs are reined in. That’s when we’re going to have the best outcomes. The idea that we’re just going to have a single-payer system is not good for America.

Democrats alleged that this health care overhaul will eliminate protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. MacArthur explained how Democrats deceived the public on the issue of pre-existing conditions:

The other side has spent too much time speaking to people’s emotions and misstating the facts.   For example, with pre-existing conditions the bill could not be more explicit that insurers cannot discriminate, they can’t deny coverage, they can’t deny renewals, they can’t health rate someone who’s sick in the middle of being insured. If you get sick, your health rates don’t skyrocket. What it does say is that if you don’t maintain coverage for more than 63 days, you will pay an extra premium. However, states can request a waiver to look at those people, but they have to create a risk pool to ensure that the neediest amongst are not left behind. It balances to make sure people don’t skip out on buying health insurance when they get sick. That’s not fair to the rest of the American people.

That’s like not buying home owner’s insurance until your house floods. I think we struck the right balance and caring for the vulnerable and providing a significant amount of money for caring for the needy, we provided $138 billion dollars for high-risk pools. This is the individual and small group market which is 7 percent of the population, so you’re talking about within that 7 percent of people with pre-existing conditions, and now you’re talking about people within that market that don’t maintain health insurance coverage. That’s who the $138 billion high-risk pool applies to.  The idea that we haven’t invested in enough money is simply ludicrous, and it’s a deception that the mainstream media is complicit in and the left is pushing. That’s not the truth. If we don’t fix this, people with pre-existing conditions will have nothing. They’re insurance market will collapse.

Critics attacked House Republicans for a provision in AHCA that would allow for Congress and their staff to be exempt from changes to Obamacare regulations. MacArthur said they never meant to retain that rule, and that House Republicans passed a bill that would eliminate that provision. MacArthur admitted, “That was our intention, the reality that the House has to write its legislation in a way that is consistent with the Senate’s rules and we would have to go back into this issue in a separate piece of legislation which I cosponsored. I voted on this bill before we voted on the American Health Care Act. By the time we voted on ACHA, we already voted on another standalone bill to mandate that Congress and our staff are covered by the same provision.”

MacArthur told Breitbart News about his experience working with Frederick Trump, President Donald Trump’s father. He recounted:

I worked with him even before I became the CEO of York when I was a young manager. In the 80’s and in the 90’s I handled Fred’s insurance, and he had thousands of properties in Brooklyn. He had a retention which meant that he kept a certain amount of the risk himself per claim. He kept quite a bit of them himself, which meant that we would have to work with him to settle claims. He was very detail oriented.

So every few weeks I would have to go out to Brooklyn and go out to Fred’s car and would drive around Fred’s property.  I would watch him interreact with his employees and his tenants, and he clearly cared about his tenants and you know they were low-income apartments but he wanted them to be neat and clean and safe for his tenants, and I like him, I liked the way he interacted with people.

MacArthur added, “He was very careful with his money. I always enjoyed working with him. He was stern but always had a good sense of humor.”


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