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Democrats to try to force vote on Trump roll back of Obamacare insurance rules

October 9, 2018

Democrats will force a vote in the Senate on Wednesday to try to roll back President Trump’s plans to approve sales of health insurance that falls short of Obamacare’s standards, hoping to get back on track after the bruising Supreme Court fight.

They insisted health care, not Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, will drive voters to the polls next month, punishing Republicans for their efforts to roll back some of the 2010 health law’s strictures and guarantees.

The resolution Democrats will force a vote on is certain to fail it’s unlikely to net the two Republicans needed to clear the Senate, and even if it did, the House already has fled Washington until after the election.

But for Democrats, Wednesday’s vote is about giving vulnerable senators, such as Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, new ammunition against GOP challengers.

“Anyone who says they support health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this resolution,” said Ms. Baldwin, who is the bill’s chief sponsor and filed a discharge petition late Tuesday with enough signatures to put her resolution on the floor.

The resolution uses the Congressional Review Act, which gives Capitol Hill a chance to veto new rules and regulations.

In this case the target is a rule that would allow companies to sell health plans that fall short of Obamacare’s full coverage menu, and to allow Americans to hold the plans for up to a year.

President Obama himself allowed consumers to hold short-term insurance for a full year until 2016, when he capped short-term plans at three months. Mr. Trump’s regulation would let consumers hold the plans for a year, and allow them to renew for an additional two years.

Republicans argue it would be perfect for customers who can’t afford Obamacare-compliant plans that are too pricey because they cover services the customers doubt they’d use.

“Short-term plans offer consumers a lifeboat insurance policies they can afford,” said Doug Badger, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Congress shouldn’t sink the lifeboats.”

Democrats, though, fear younger and healthier customers will buy those plans, dropping out of the Obamacare markets that need them to subsidize costs for older and sicker Americans.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of short-term plans offered on two major online markets eHealth and Agile Health Insurance found that 43 percent did not cover mental health services, 62 percent didn’t cover substance abuse treatment and none covered maternity care.

The Obamacare fight is playing out in the courts, where blue states have sued to stop the short-term plans proposal, and red states have sued to try to undo the rest of Obamacare itself.

Those red-state attorneys general argue that without the individual mandate forcing Americans to buy insurance it was repealed by the 2017 tax-cut law the rest of Obamacare must fall.

“Now that the individual mandate is a bad memory, people seem to have fallen in love with the residual parts of the ACA,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

One of those residuals is the 2010 law’s requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats are wearing their support for the pre-existing conditions protections as a badge of honor, pointing back to last year’s vote in which the GOP failed to fulfill its repeal-and-replace promise on Obamacare.

“I was the deciding vote that saved coverage for pre-existing conditions,” Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, said late Monday in a debate against Republican opponent Mike Braun.

Republican candidates insist they want to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, just not the way Obamacare does it.

One option is to create high-risk pools where the government helps with costs. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan says that’s worked in Wisconsin.

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