The advocacy group, backed by billionaire Charles Koch, is pushing its own health agenda as President Joe Biden’s administration builds on the Affordable Care Act.
Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the libertarian Koch network, told CNBC that it is working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get support for its plan.
The plan, known as the “Personal Option,” is a collection of policy proposals aimed at the private sector, focusing on tax breaks, expanding health savings accounts and cutting regulations. The name and message of the plan are intended to contrast with Democrats’ call for a public option that would allow people to participate in a government-run health program that would compete with private insurers.
AFP officials began promoting their own healthcare idea late last year, including in a comment published in October. The comment was written by Dean Clancy, Senior Fellow of the Health Policy Group.
So far this year, the group has notified all members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Ways and Means Committee who write taxes of their health care proposals, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. This person declined to be named to be able to speak freely in private conversations.
Several Republicans responded positively to the idea, including senior member of the Energy and Trade Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, and the committee members, Reps. John Curtis from Utah and Dan Crenshaw from Texas.
It’s unclear whether Democrats have reacted to AFP’s recent engagement regarding the personal option. Representatives of the democratic chairs of both committees did not respond to requests for comment.
The Koch network has long spoken out against the public option. The new effort also comes as Biden and the Democrats in Congress are on the verge of adopting a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that includes direct payments of up to $ 1,400 to most Americans.
The president campaigned for the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, by letting Americans shop into a Medicare-like public option and increasing tax credits for buying insurance, among other things. A group of Senate Democrats recently reintroduced a bill urging the public option. Biden signed a list of executive orders in the healthcare sector, including one to reopen the ACA’s HealthCare.gov for a special period of three months.
AFP, along with other center-right organizations, spent millions taking over Obamacare during former President Barack Obama’s tenure.
In an interview with CNBC, Clancy admitted that efforts to roll back Obamacare had failed, at least in part, because opponents of the government-mandated health bill had never proposed a viable alternative.
He pointed to efforts by Republicans in 2017 to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, which failed when Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., Voted against the measure.
“I think our team failed to lead with our positive alternative in 2017 when the public was never fully convinced of a complete repeal,” said Clancy on Monday. Clancy said although he believes many voters were not in favor of the law, there was no clear solution on the way forward.
“A majority or near-majority disliked the reform, but people disagreed on what to do. Repair has always been the greatest area of support. Repeal had less support and why? Because our side was no longer effectively explaining our positive alternative,” said Clancy. “We’re trying to change that now.”
Under Trump, the government and Republicans successfully lifted the Obamacare’s individual mandate. The Supreme Court will take over Obamacare for the third time in June.
The Koch Network’s decision to deal with Democrats on this matter comes as the group seeks to pursue its priorities more bipartisan, with Biden having a majority in the White House and Democrats in both houses of Congress.
The entire network has said it is open to support from the Democrats, not only on the political side, but also if they stand for re-election.
Although the Koch network did not participate in the 2020 presidential election, the organization as a whole mainly supported the Republicans. One of the exceptions was Koch-backed Libre Action, which recently supported Democrats, including Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, during his successful elementary school earlier this year.
Clancy told CNBC that certain elements of AFP’s personal option have already been endorsed by some lawmakers. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz from Texas, Rand Paul from Kentucky and Mike Lee from Utah are advocates of expanding health savings accounts.
Lee, for example, recently proposed an amendment to the Senate’s “Votum-a-Rama” budget that, according to a press release from his office, would “increase access to and qualifications for health savings accounts.” The amendment was passed with three “yes” votes by three moderate Democrats: Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly from Arizona.
AFP plans to reach out to all three Democrats to speak to them about their personal suggestion of an option, according to the person familiar with the matter.
AFP previously supported ideas advocated by Democrats. The group issued a press release in August highlighting a white paper it co-authored with the Progressive Policy Institute. It promoted the advancement of telehealth, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The release contained words of encouragement from Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The group recently had a live virtual Facebook discussion with Representatives Susan Wild, D-Pa., And Fred Keller, R-Pa. The focus of the lecture was on the Nurses CARES Act, which you co-authored.
The publication of the bill says it would “”Strengthening the Workforce Pipeline for Key Healthcare Workers “and” aims to prevent the shortage of long-term care facilities and enable America’s key health care workers to do important work without interruption. “