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GOP leaders resist calls for changes to new health bill

By ALAN FRAM Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Conservative Republicans demanded tougher changes Friday in insurance requirements and Medicaid than the House GOP health care bill proposes and warned they'd oppose the legislation if it isn't reshaped. The White House signaled an openness to negotiate, but there was resistance from House leaders.

Less than two weeks before the GOP's showpiece legislation is slated to hit the House floor, the discord underscored the challenge facing top Republicans trying to garner votes for legislation scrapping former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

It also raised questions about whether congressional leaders reluctant to make changes were lagging behind a White House more willing to cut deals. And it illustrated anew the strained relationship between GOP leaders and some conservatives, even as the party tries to deliver one of its highest profile goals.

"If that's the best that they can do, then perhaps they have a different whip count than I have," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, suggesting the legislation lacked enough votes to pass.

One conservative priority is quickly halting the extra money Obama's law gives states to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for 70 million low-income people. The GOP bill would end that additional funding in 2020 except for recipients already in the program, but conservatives want to accelerate that to 2018 to save money.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said the bill will pass. GOP leaders are more concerned about unhappy moderates and are coordinating with the White House, said one top Republican who spoke on condition of anonymity, being unauthorized to discuss tactics publicly.

The GOP bill, approved this week by two House committees, would end Obama's fines on people who don't buy insurance and the federal subsidies many who purchase coverage receive.

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