Democrats are fighting to derail the White House’s push for cheaper, less-robust health plans, seeking to leverage the issue for advantage over the Republicans ahead of the mid-term elections, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reports.
The fight over shorter-term plans—which went on sale this month and are free from many Affordable Care Act requirements—is emerging as a proxy for the broader battle over health care.
Democrats say the proliferation of such plans will raise premiums for older and less healthy people by letting healthier consumers out of coverage that complies with the ACA. Republicans say the effect won’t be significant and that all consumers will benefit by having more choice.
With the vote this week, Democrats see a rare opportunity to take the offensive. The vote, which will take place as early as Wednesday, can be forced under the Congressional Review Act, which needs only 30 senators to bring an action. Democrats are borrowing from a GOP playbook; the tool has been used by Republicans to challenge Obama-era rules.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) sponsored the resolution, which needs a majority of 51 to pass; so far it is supported by all 49 Democrats, while no Republicans have signed on.
A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments this month in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Trump rule on the short-term plans. Another court, in Texas, is weighing a lawsuit declaring the ACA itself unconstitutional.
Democrats hope to be cast as the party that safeguards protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions because short-term insurance isn’t required to cover people who suffer from such conditions. That subject is proving resonant in House and Senate races across the country.
“Republicans are getting hammered on pre-existing conditions,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which analyzes congressional races.
In a more direct challenge, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Oct. 28 hears arguments in a lawsuit arguing the Trump rule is illegal.
The rule allows consumers to buy short-term plans for up to a year, rather than the three-month period allowed under the Obama administration. Insurers can also extend the plans for 36 months. The plans had been restricted under Obama so they would be used as stopgap coverage, rather than ongoing insurance.
Consumer groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Alliance of Community Health Plans, filed a motion last month seeking an injunction blocking the plans. They assert the rule runs afoul of ACA requirements that insurance cover certain conditions.
This week, consumer and patient groups filed briefs supporting the plaintiffs. “The rule threatens to split and weaken the individual market, which has provided millions of previously uninsured people with access to quality coverage since the health care law went into effect,” the brief says.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a speech last month that the plans give consumers more choice—and can be as much as 80% cheaper than ACA-compliant plans. “We know we can offer Americans real choices,” he said.
Republicans say the short-term plans will provide essential financial relief for consumers, including young, healthy people who don’t make a lot of money and don’t need elaborate coverage.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL