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Jody Hice's rejection of GOP health care plan could help sink bill

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) in Writghtsville, Ga., on Oct. 14, 2015. (Kevin D. Liles/The New York Times)
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) in Writghtsville, Ga., on Oct. 14, 2015. (Kevin D. Liles/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON -- Georgia Congressman Jody Hice is firmly against the Republican health care plan, one of at least two dozen reported GOP opponents who are imperiling the White House-backed legislation roughly 24 hours before the House is expected to vote on the proposal.

The Monroe Republican said the current plan "doesn't go far enough" to repeal Obamacare, despite recent changes leaders made to win over conservatives like him. He wants Republicans to rip up the current version, known as the American Health Care Act, and start over.

“It doesn’t move it in the direction we said we would move it," Hice said Wednesday afternoon. "This still is government-involved government healthcare. It’s an entitlement program. It is, in essence, a GOP version of Obamacare, and that’s not what we’ve been sent here to do.”

The second-term Republican and many of his colleagues on the conservative House Freedom Caucus are being courted heavily by the President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and their deputies in a slew of eleventh-hour meetings. He was at the White House earlier Wednesday as officials made their latest overtures.

The only GOP member of the Georgia congressional delegation to reject the plan, Hice said he "wants to get to yes." In order to get there, he said he'd like to see the legislation shelve a list of 10 basic benefits that Obamacare forces health insurers to cover, including all approved types of birth control and pre-natal care. He said the so-called essential health benefits drive up costs for consumers.

“We need the government out of health care and for government to be dictating what insurance companies can offer,” Hice said. “Those are not free-market principles and it will not drive premiums down.”

Hice isn't the only Freedom Caucus member making the request. But Ryan and his deputies say that such a proposal wouldn't hold up under the special rule that allows Republican lawmakers to circumvent a Democratic filibuster in the Senate if a bill focuses exclusively on fiscal matters.

A day before the House is expected to vote on the American Health Care Act, it was difficult to discern whether GOP leaders had enough support to secure its passage. They can only afford to lose 22 Republicans votes and still pass the bill in the face of united Democratic opposition.

Hice insisted that leaders "don’t have the votes right now."

Despite the opposition, House leaders were resolved on Wednesday to forge ahead.

The powerful House Rules Committee met to make final edits to the bill and set the rules of floor debate, even before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office came out with its latest cost estimate of the revised proposal. A final vote is expected on Thursday night.

Read more on health care: 

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