Why 'essential benefits' are sticking point in Obamacare overhaul

Some house Republicans are seeking to peel back the provision.

- Ambulatory patient services

- Emergency services

- Hospitalization

- Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care

- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)

- Laboratory services

- Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management

- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

Free-market conservatives have long argued that these regulations are unfair to consumers and raise premiums. Their position is that insurance recipients -- like a young, healthy male -- shouldn't have to pay for a plan that includes coverage they don't need, like maternity care, particularly if it increases the cost of their plan.

Spicer suggested that the White House was open to cutting these benefits, but said that everything was still up for negotiation.

Democrats –- and some Republicans –- argue that insurance economics work differently. They say insurance premiums often fall when more people buy into a pool, not just those who are sick or anticipating the need for coverage for a life event, like pregnancy. In their scenario, everyone chips in, and while only some people need services, everyone is covered just in case.

Before the ACA, consumers sometimes unintentionally bought so-called “junk plans” that did not provide basic benefits. Because those buying coverage on their own have little-to-no leverage, they can be susceptible to gimmicks or ploys from big carriers. Democrats argued these were important consumer protection regulations and would help drive down costs of better plans.

“I'll just say that [cutting] essential health benefits means Republicans are making being a woman a preexisting condition again. Stripping guaranteed maternity care is a pregnancy tax pure and simple. Stripping guaranteed maternity care is a pregnancy tax pure and simple. Worsening the addiction epidemic and making it harder to access mental health care, making it more expensive to be sick in America,” she said.