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Senate Democrats force vote on health law waivers

Senate Democrats will force a vote Wednesday to roll back Trump administration guidance they say is a referendum on Republican support for pre-existing conditions protections.

The Senate will vote on a resolution that would reverse a 2018 guidance expanding changes states could make to their insurance markets through waivers under the 2010 health care law. Democrats are forcing the vote through the Congressional Review Act even though no states have sought to make the types of changes the administration is encouraging.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called it a “horrible rule that threatens the care of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

“Senate Democrats will force one of the most significant policy votes of the year,” he told reporters on a press call Tuesday. “We will finally see where Republicans stand on the Trump administration’s plans to sabotage Americans’ health care.”

Democrats need a simple majority to pass the disapproval resolution. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Tuesday that Democrats did not have a vote count.

Waivers were included in the Democrats’ health care law as a way for states to put their own marks on their individual insurance markets. To be granted approval, states had to show their proposals would not decrease the number of people with insurance coverage and that their coverage would be as comprehensive and as affordable.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued the revised guidance, which said states would be required to show an equivalent number of residents would have access to some form of coverage under the waiver, including plans that don’t meet the health law’s requirements.

The agency also released a list of policy ideas for states to consider, such as allowing people to use federal subsidies to buy short-term plans that do not have to guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or cover essential benefits required under the law.

The White House said in a statement of administrative policy released Monday that President Donald Trump’s advisers would recommend he veto the resolution if it reached his desk.

Democrats previously forced a vote on the administration’s rule expanding the duration of short-term plans. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to disapprove of the rule at that time.

The Government Accountability Office said earlier this year the guidance could be considered a rule, allowing Democrats to hold Wednesday’s vote.

Democrats criticized the guidance as cutting off care for people with pre-existing conditions, an issue they have sought to leverage against Republicans on the campaign trail.

Democrats say it is important to vote to rescind the policy although no state has pursued these changes.

“If Trump is successful in continuing to push forward these rules, he’s going to also start to put pressure on Republican governors to join him,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said. “It’s just a matter of time before he starts tweeting at Republican governors to move forward with their own plans to undermine the Affordable Care Act.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in comments Tuesday on the Senate floor that the Trump administration has said a waiver could not undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“Apparently our Democratic colleagues are not terribly fond of letting states shake off the unhelpful structures of Obamacare,” McConnell said. “Perhaps it makes their signature law look bad that governors of both parties are eager to escape from it.”

McConnell noted that a dozen states have used the waivers to set up reinsurance programs to receive government funds to cover the highest-cost patients. Those waivers were not affected by the Trump administration’s changes in the guidance memo. Both Republican and Democratic governors have set up such programs, which have led to lower premiums in those states.

By Daniel Vincent

With a bachelor's degree in Journalism, Daniel Vincent is the editor at Bulletin Line. He has fluency in reporting Law & Order news pieces from around the world. Additionally, with his expertise in the language, he edits all the news pieces contributed to the platform.