State Politics

No, a NC congressman didn’t cry about the health bill score

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, speaks at President Trump’s press conference with members of the GOP on the passage of legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act on May 4, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, speaks at President Trump’s press conference with members of the GOP on the passage of legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act on May 4, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House. TNS

After the federal government released a new analysis of the GOP health care bill Wednesday, a surprising story began making the rounds online.

Rep. Mark Meadows – the North Carolina Republican who has been front-and-center during this year’s debate on plans to repeal and replace Obamacare – cried after seeing the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, multiple websites have reported.

The new report, known as a CBO score, estimates that if the GOP-backed American Health Care Act replaces the current Affordable Care Act, then an additional 23 million Americans will be uninsured by 2020.

[Related: “What will happen to North Carolina premiums if the AHCA replaces Obamacare?”]

According to several media outlets, including the New York Daily News and the liberal website Think Progress, Meadows cried about how the AHCA could make people with pre-existing conditions pay significantly more for their insurance.

“GOP lawmaker chokes back tears after finding out the impact of the health care bill he helped write,” wrote Think Progress, adding, “That’s what happens when you believe your party’s own lies.”

But that’s not actually what happened, according to the reporter for the Independent Journal Review who interviewed Meadows about the new CBO score and wrote about his reaction.

She reported that Meadows cried only after he began talking about his father and sister, who both died of cancer – and that the bill itself didn’t inspire any tears.

In fact, Meadows was at least somewhat responsible for the demise of the House’s initial version of the AHCA, in March.

He thought it was too moderate and convinced the coalition he leads that is made up of some of the most conservative Republicans in the House – known as the Freedom Caucus – to oppose it until House leaders made changes.

Meadows supports more spending?

As reports began circulating about the Cashiers Republican tearing up, another piece of news got overlooked.

Meadows said he’s open to making the health bill less conservative – softening his usual hard line against more government spending.

If the AHCA becomes law, people with pre-existing conditions – like cancer – could wind up in what are called “high risk pools” in which there are few healthy people. Premiums for those people would likely skyrocket, causing some to drop their insurance entirely.

[Related: “Price is right: North Carolina would have nation's second-highest costs if AHCA replaces Obamacare”]

When the AHCA finally passed the House in April, it earned barely enough votes – and only after a last-minute amendment to spend about $8 billion extra over the next 10 years to subsidize people in those high-risk pools.

But even before it passed there was widespread speculation that the $8 billion wouldn’t be nearly enough, and the CBO confirmed that’s correct.

[Related: “Did Paul Ryan flip-flop on how to pass a big health care bill?”]

That’s where Meadows came in.

The Independent Journal Review reporter said when Meadows was told about that part of the new CBO score, he “indicated he would support less-conservative changes to provide more funding for high-risk pools.”

And that’s what started the tears, as the reporter noted: “Meadows, suddenly emotional, choked back tears and said, ‘Listen, I lost my sister to breast cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to pre-existing conditions, it’s me. I’m not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody’s sister or father because I wouldn’t do it to myself.’”

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran

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