Senate Republicans turned back a Democratic bid Wednesday to kill President Trump’s plan to expand the sale of health plans that fall short of Obamacare’s rules, saying Americans who buy insurance on their own need more options, not fewer.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, sided with Democrats in the 50-50 vote, though the resolution needed a majority to advance.
Its defeat was never in doubt, really, though the vote allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as “junk plan” peddlers who don’t care about people with preexisting conditions who might pay more for robust coverage, as healthier people who cross-subsidize their costs ditch Obamacare for skimpier options.
“This administration wants to let these junk insurance plans run rampant and let people be duped into thinking they’re having insurance when it covers almost nothing,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “They are a massive risk to any family who purchases them, and worse, they cause rates to go up for everyone else.”
Democrats are elevating their defense of health coverage for sicker Americans this mid-term season, citing polling that shows GOP threats to undo Obamacare’s protections for preexisting conditions are unpopular.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat facing re-election, pushed Wednesday’s resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which gives Capitol Hill a chance to veto new rules and regulations.
She targeted a Trump rule, finalized in August, that would allow companies to sell “short-term” health plans that fall short of Obamacare’s full coverage menu, and to allow Americans to hold the plans for up to a year.
President Barack Obama himself allowed consumers to hold short-term insurance for a full year until 2016, when he capped short-term plans at three months.
Republicans were quick to point that out, although Mr. Trump’s regulation would let consumers renew for an additional two years.
The administration and its GOP allies say Americans have been priced out of Obamacare’s market, so invalidating Mr. Trump’s attempt to extend a lifeline would be cruel.
“Surely, they must have a better answer than snatching away one of the remaining options that some Americans still prefer,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
“Our constituents deserve more options, not fewer,” he said. “The last thing we should do is destroy one of the options that still is actually working for American families.”