In another step in the tug of war between Democrats in Congress and the Trump Administration over efforts to force changes in the Obama health law, the House on Thursday approved a bill which would limit efforts by the Trump Administration to let states permit the sale of health insurance plans which would not follow all the insurance coverage requirements under current law.
"It will send another message to the White House that this Democratic Congress is going to be a brick wall against any attempt at taking people's health care away," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as Democrats accuse the President of trying to 'sabotage' the Obama health law.
"Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is trying to weaken those protections," said Rep. Cathy Castor (D-FL).
"The Trump Administration obviously has tried to repeal," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the Affordable Care Act, "and at the same time is trying to use every regulatory trick in the book to undermine and sabotage the ACA."
The bill would revoke new guidance for what are officially known as Section 1332 waivers for state innovation - Democrats argue the Trump Administration was simply looking for ways to allow states to use those waivers to get around the coverage requirements under the Obama health law.
Four Republicans broke ranks to vote for the plan, Sensenbrenner (WI), Katko (NY), Fitzpatrick (PA), and Smith (NJ).
But for Republicans - who have been playing defense on health care in the last two years as the GOP failed to repeal and replace the Obama health law - this Democratic effort is nothing more than part of a political public relations campaign.
"This bill has everything to do with eliminating health care options and choices for states," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who has led GOP efforts on health care.
"The legislation threatens access to healthcare for our Nation’s citizens and runs counter to the President’s healthcare vision of expanding affordable coverage, improving care for people with pre-existing conditions, and enhancing competition," the White House stated.
Supporters of the Trump Administration changes argue the new options would give states the chance to provide consumers with choices that are outside the one-size-fits-all requirements of the Obama health law.
But even with that option provided by the White House last year, no states have signed up as yet to take full advantage of the regulatory changes - instead seven states have used the option to create reinsurance programs, but not to take the step of allowing the sale of insurance options which don't meet the full coverage requirements under the Obama health law.
Democrats and Republicans even tussled over the name of this bill - the 'Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019' - as GOP lawmakers said the title had nothing to do with the actual subject, and was just an effort to play political games.
One GOP amendment rejected in the House would have re-named it the, "Politically Punch Title That Doesn't Reflect the Bill Substance Act" - another would have altered the title to the, "This Bill Actually Has Nothing to do with Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act.”
Those amendments, and other GOP plans were voted down by the full House.
The bill from Democrats now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to be brought up for a vote.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.