Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, was among two dozen members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who met with Vice President Mike Pence about the House legislation on Wednesday. But despite the vice president’s cajoling, Pearce told the Journal after the meeting his position was “lean no” on the bill.
“I’ve been lean no for most of the time” since House Speaker Paul Ryan introduced the legislation, Pearce said. “From the very early stages, it looked like there were things that were not going to be good for New Mexico and where our (low-income) economic strata lie.”
Pearce said he could support the House bill only if it was stripped of two major components: minimum coverage standards mandated by the Affordable Care Act or “essential health benefits,” and similar language in Title I of the Affordable Care Act defined as “qualified health plans.”
Pearce and many other Republicans contend that eliminating those provisions would allow insurers to offer coverage at lower prices, even if they don’t provide the same level of benefits.
“My position is I just want things to be affordable and I want it to work in New Mexico,” Pearce said. “Right now, there are critical questions.”
Other members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation – all Democrats – oppose the House bill.
Pearce noted that the 10 so-called essential health benefits mandated under the Affordable Care Act and in the current House plan include coverage for things such as addiction treatment and smoking cessation programs that many, especially healthy young people, don’t want to pay for. The essential benefits also include maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs and emergency room coverage.
“We’ve been transparent from the first that the essential health benefits are what are driving costs up so high in Obamacare, and they are still in this package here, so we’ve said take those out,” Pearce said. “This is what has driven up the cost and caused people to bail out of the program.”