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Republican AHCA architect tears up talking about family member with preexisting conditions

A new report shows protections will be stripped if the bill becomes law.

mark meadows sentences
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) doing Congress stuff. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A Republican legislator who helped draft the party’s health care bill became teary and emotional after learning about the bills effects after the new Congressional Budget Office score. The analysis estimated that the bill would cause 23 million fewer Americans to have health insurance, and would not protect those with preexisting conditions.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) co-chairs the Freedom Caucus, a group that was instrumental in making the Republican health care bill more conservative. The Freedom Caucus advocated for rolling back Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. It called for ending the Obamacare requirement that insurance plans charge sick people the same prices as healthy people.

But Meadows seemed to have second thoughts about his policy position on Wednesday, after the CBO released its report. Haley Byrd from IJR caught up with him on Capitol Hill. He had just read a paragraph from the CBO report that said, “people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.”

After reading the paragraph, Meadows told reporters he would go through the CBO analysis more thoroughly and run the numbers, adding he would work to make sure the high-risk pools are properly funded.

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 preexisting 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.”

He continued, “In the end, we’ve got to make sure there’s enough funding there to handle preexisting conditions and drive down premiums. And if we can’t do those three things, then we will have failed.”

Meadows indicated he would support less-conservative changes to provide more funding for high-risk pools in the Senate, if needed.

This is a bit of a surprising turn for Meadows. Remember, he was the guy who advocated for waivers that would allow states to charge more for preexisting conditions. “Our main goal, our only goal, is to lower premiums,” Meadows told the Washington Examiner in March of why he supported that change.

The CBO report does find that the Republican plan lowers premiums. But it does so in a way that Meadows didn’t seem to fully understand before, by making health insurance too expensive for sick people to afford.

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