WASHINGTON — The new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead, killed off by House Republicans who never actually read the legislation — because in fact, it never actually existed.
Conservative groups moved quickly on Wednesday to shift the blame for the failure of a seven-year promise to repeal the law onto some not-as-conservative Republicans, after a small but powerful group of hard-line House conservatives failed again to come to a meeting of the minds with the Trump administration over how best to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.
“The left wing among House Republicans doesn’t want to compromise or keep their pledge to voters to repeal Obamacare,” David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, a conservative free-market advocacy group, said in a statement. “They’ve rejected deals that would give Americans more choices for cheaper health insurance, and now they won’t even allow states the chance to scale back Obamacare’s costliest regulations.”
The accusation — echoed by other conservatives — represents a remarkable turnaround in the blame game. The group and its supporters have opposed much of the major legislation considered by Congress in recent years.
Last month, a House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed to get enough support to bring it to a vote. About 30 of the most conservative members of the House rejected the bill as preserving too much of the existing law, but as they pressed to dismantle ever more provisions, they pushed away more moderate House Republicans who were leery of leaving 24 million more Americans without health insurance.
The effort was left for dead, until Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials raced up to the Capitol this week to cobble together a new agreement with the most conservative Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus. The revived measure, stirring in its grave, was known informally on Capitol Hill as Zombie Trumpcare.
According to several members, Mr. Pence had proposed allowing states to obtain waivers from two provisions of the Affordable Care Act. One provision requires insurers to cover a standard minimum package of benefits, including maternity care and emergency services. The other generally requires insurers to charge the same price to people of the same age who live in the same geographic area.
By allowing insurers to increase the cost of premiums for sick people, the waivers would effectively gut the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provision: mandated access to insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions. But members of the House Freedom Caucus were pushing to…