The Senate on Wednesday defeated a Democratic measure to overrule President Trump’s expansion of non-ObamaCare insurance plans as Democrats seek to highlight health care ahead of the midterm elections.
The Democratic measure would have overruled Trump’s expansion of short-term health insurance plans, which do not have to cover people with pre-existing conditions or cover a range of health services like mental health or prescription drugs.
It was defeated on an extremely narrow, mostly party line 50-50 vote, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voting with Democrats in favor of overturning the short-term plans.
Republicans argue the short-term plans simply provide a cheaper option alongside more comprehensive ObamaCare plans.
Democrats forced the vote ahead of the midterms in an attempt to put health care front and center in the campaign. Democrats said Republicans voting to keep in place these “junk” insurance plans that do not have to cover pre-existing conditions was another example they can use to paint the GOP as wrong on health care.
“In a few short weeks the American people will head to the polls where they can vote for another two years of Republican attempts to gut our health-care system, or they can vote for Democratic candidates who will safeguard the protections now in place and work to make health care more affordable,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, forcefully pushed back, saying short-term plans provide a cheaper option than ObamaCare and if people want full ObamaCare plans with all the protections, they can still have them.
With short-term plans, Alexander said the message is “you can pay less with less coverage and at least you will have some insurance.”
“But our Democratic friends will say, ‘Oh no, we don’t want to do anything that will lower the cost of insurance,’” Alexander added.
Health-care experts say the short-term plans pose a risk of siphoning healthy people away from ObamaCare plans, leading to an increase in premiums for those remaining in the ObamaCare plans.
“The rule threatens to split and weaken the individual insurance market, which has provided millions of previously uninsured people with access to quality coverage since the health care law went into effect,” a range of patient groups, including the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, said in a joint statement this week opposing the Trump administration’s short-term plans rule.
The rules that Democrats seek to overturn, which the Trump administration finalized in August, lifted a three-month restriction on short-term plans, allowing them to last up to a year. Critics say this makes the plans not really “short-term” at all.
“Our constituents deserve more options, not fewer,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. “The last thing we should do is destroy one of the options that’s still actually working for American families.”
BY PETER SULLIVAN – 10/10/18