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Obamacare replacement bill represents 'best effort' of the Republican conference

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Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., discusses the Republican's Obamacare replacement bill in an interview with KATV on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

Republicans are confident that the compromise GOP health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will get the needed support from conservatives on the House Freedom Caucus, but Democrats are more skeptical that the bill will advance.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the House Freedom Caucus announced they would be supporting the amended version of the American Health Care Act (ACHA), the bill that failed to garner enough support among conservatives and moderates and was pulled from the floor before a vote in late March.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, is confident the House Republican conference will be able to pass bill very shortly. "I think that you're going to see in the next day or two that many people are coming together, that we should be able to get a bill out of the House and over to the Senate," he said in an interview with WKRC.

The compromise bill does not repeal Obamacare, which was a sticking point for the Freedom Caucus, but amends the law to give states more flexibility in implementing some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act in an effort to curb the rising costs of insurance. The new bill will reportedly allow states to waive the insurance requirements, like maternity care and mental health care, that were part of the essential health requirements under Obamacare. States will also be able to give insurance companies the option of increasing costs to individuals based on preexisting conditions or age.

According to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the fact that the Freedom Caucus agreed to the new AHCA, indicates that the GOP may have just lost the support of moderates.

"I don't see it moving forward in the House," Langevin said in an interview with WJAR. "Every time they tried to move more to the right and appeal to the Freedom Caucus ... they were losing the moderate Republicans, so my guess is that trend will continue."

In addition to the tricky calculus within their own conference, Langevin added that the bill will certainly not have support from Democrats. However, if the negotiating tactics from Republicans change, and they are willing to drop the language of repealing and replacing Obamacare, then Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to "improve the Affordable Care Act and make it work."

The Republicans are finalizing the language of the bill now that they have Freedom Caucus support and potentially buy-in from moderate members of the caucus. From the time the original bill was pulled from the floor, Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told KATV that he is leaning yes on the current repeal and replace measure that he believes addresses the concerns from both sides of the GOP conference.

"We have voted many, many ties to try to repeal and now replace the Affordable Care Act and this is a representative of, I think, our best effort right now," Womack said.

Given the challenges of the fractious Republican Party, he believes the successful passage of the bill through the House will represent a major victory. "If we can cobble together a replacement measure ... and get this through, I think it would be a major victory for the unified Republican government."