Democrats Unveil Legislation to Expand Obamacare Ahead of Monday’s Vote in the House

June 24, 2020 Updated: June 24, 2020

Democrats in the House unveiled legislation, on Wednesday, to expand the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) as President Trump and Republicans continue to oppose any expansion of Obamacare.

According to Democrats the bill, H.R. 1425 or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, they aim to lower healthcare costs, protect patients with preexisting conditions, expand Medicaid and lower prescription drug prices.

The package (pdf) is scheduled for a vote on Monday by the House, which includes Democrats’ ongoing efforts to expand federal subsidies to make health insurance premiums more affordable and increase federal Medicaid funding.

This legislation establishes a federal fund, called Improve Health Insurance Affordability Fund. States are required to use these funds to “issue reinsurance payments to health insurers for individual health insurance coverage, or provide other assistance to reduce out-of-pocket costs for qualified health plans offered in the individual market.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) contrasted their effort with the Trump administration’s effort to have the ACA struck down.

“Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear the brief from the Trump administration as to taking down the Affordable Care Act, right in the heart of the time of the pandemic. It was wrong any time. Now it’s beyond stupid, beyond stupid,” Pelosi said.

Republicans, for the most part, oppose that legislation, arguing it would impede pharmaceutical innovation and drive up costs. “At a time when we are in the middle of a global pandemic, when our hopes for protecting human life and returning to normalcy rely on drug companies developing vaccines and new treatments for COVID-19, this bill will discourage that process,” said Ranking member of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

Cole called the bill “a massively expensive and partisan bill designed to expand the Affordable Care Act,” including a “hodgepodge” of various bills, 70 percent of which have not been considered for markup.

“When the Affordable Care Act was passed, states were promised that they would have the option, but not be required, to expand Medicaid and would be assisted financially if they chose to do so. Now, the majority is seeking to throw that promise out the window, using only sticks to discourage states that have chosen not to expand,” said Cole.

The measure is expected to go nowhere in the Senate, given Republican opposition to the ACA.

Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kansas) called the legislation extreme and criticized the Democrats for playing partisan games.

Trump and Republicans have taken steps to weaken the ACA in an effort to ultimately repeal and replace the Obama-era law with lower-cost options. They say the ACA represented government overreach and increased the cost of health care. Meanwhile, Democrats have vowed to strengthen the law following the Republicans’ efforts to invalidate the law through this case.

“The President’s insistence on doubling down on his senseless and cruel argument in court to destroy the ACA and every last one of its benefits and protections is unconscionable, particularly in the middle of a pandemic,” Pelosi said in May.