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Tammy Baldwin seeks to kill Donald Trump’s Obamacare off-ramp

August 29, 2018

Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin unveiled a long-shot resolution Wednesday that would unwind President Trump’s push to let Americans opt out of Obamacare and into “short-term” insurance plans for up to three years.

Ms. Baldwin, one of several Democrats facing re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won, says the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Capitol Hill to overrule new federal regulations, is the perfect vehicle to scrap the administration’s insurance rule.

Finalized earlier this month, the Trump regulation allows people to buy coverage that doesn’t cover the 2010 law’s full suite of benefits or comply with its protections for people with preexisting conditions for a full year and renew it twice.

Democrats are fuming over it, saying it is designed to usher in “junk” insurance and siphon customers out of Obamacare’s exchanges, which need healthy customers to join to keep robust coverage affordable for sicker people in the market.

“The Trump Administration is rewriting the rules on guaranteed health care protections that millions of Americans depend on,” Ms. Baldwin said. “They are moving forward on an expansion of junk insurance plans that can deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions and don’t have to cover essential services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits and maternity care.”

The CRA is rarely used, though the GOP-led Congress wielded it to hack away at parts of the Obama agenda after Mr. Trump took office in 2017.

Ms. Baldwin’s resolution has attracted 30 cosponsors from Democrats and Sen. Angus King, Maine independent, or enough to file a discharge petition to force a vote. Yet even if she picked off enough GOP cosponsors to win out in her chamber, the resolution would need a vote and majority support from the Republican-led House and win Mr. Trump’s signature.

The measure does, however, keep alive a key issue for Democrats heading into November’s midterm contests how to protect people who’ve suffered from cancer, diabetes and other preexisting conditions. Those people were often shut out of coverage before Obamacare required health plans to insure them and charge them the same price as healthy people.

Ten GOP senators tried to blunt Democrats’ attacks last week by filing a bill that would backfill certain Obamacare protections for people with preexisting conditions if a state-driven lawsuit, filed in Texas, managed to strike them down.

Ms. Baldwin’s resolution against the expansion of short-term insurance offers another line of attack, since Republicans who filed the bill didn’t take Mr. Trump to task over his rule.

The lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society urged Congress on Wednesday to rally behind Ms. Baldwin’s measure.

“We urge Congress to support this resolution and take immediate action to protect patients and the insurance market. If they fail to act, we encourage states to pass state laws restricting or prohibiting these potentially damaging products,” said Chris Hansen, president of the ACS Cancer Action Network.

Ms. Baldwin, who will face Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the fall, has staked out liberal positions on health care despite facing re-election in Trump country, citing her personal experience with a serious childhood illness.

She’s the only vulnerable Senate Democrat to back Sen. Bernard Sanders’ single-payer, “Medicare for all” bill, prompting a rebuke from Ms. Vukmir, who says the senator is out of touch with Wisconsin.

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