Senate Democrats May Force Vote on Rule Expanding Trump’s Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

October 9, 2018 Updated: October 10, 2018

Senate Democrats are trying to force a vote on a resolution to overturn a Trump administration rule, which went into effect at the beginning of this month, allowing for the expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

The joint resolution would invalidate the rule that the Trump administration finalized at the end of August to expand short-term health care plans to a year from under three months, with the option to renew twice.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) wrote in a tweet on Oct. 9 that she had introduced a resolution that would require only 30 senators to discharge it from committee, where normally it would go before coming to the Senate floor.

There are 45 co-sponsors on the resolution, 43 Democrats and two independents, but so far no Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate. With a total of 49 Democrats and independents on board, she’ll need the backing of at least two Republicans to send the measure to the House.

If the resolution passes in both chambers, it would invalidate the rule expanding short-term health care plans.

Baldwin’s office expects the vote to take place on Oct. 10.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Ala.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Rand Paul (Ky.), along with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have all broken with their party in the past on health care reform. Last year, they effectively scuttled Republican efforts to partly repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

None of those GOP senators replied to requests by The Epoch Times for comment by the time of publication about the resolution. According to Baldwin’s office, no commitments from Murkowski and Collins have been received.

Short-term plans are meant to cover people who are facing a temporary loss of health insurance, such as with a job change or a loss of insurance for other reasons. Shortly before President Barack Obama left office, he constricted the time frame of the plans to less than three months, with no option to renew.

The Trump administration expanded the plans to up to one year, with the possibility to renew twice for a total of up to three years, to give people without health-care subsidies who are facing skyrocketing premiums an alternative. The plans don’t qualify as coverage in terms of the individual mandate, which requires U.S. citizens to have health insurance or to pay a penalty at the end of the year.

These short-term plans cost on average 80 percent less because they don’t cover as wide a variety of services as ACA-compliant plans.

Critics argue that while these plans have lower premiums, they often have higher deductibles, cover only bare essentials, and don’t cover people with pre-existing conditions, who are still covered under the ACA-compliant plans. Proponents of Obamacare also fear that the types of people who will flock to these plans are the healthiest, which the ACA relies on to offset the cost of sick people.

“Anyone who says they support coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this resolution to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of junk insurance plans,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar argues that these plans are for people who must choose between spending a large portion of their income on health insurance or having no health insurance at all.

“These short-term plans can be a good option for many Americans priced out of Obamacare’s regulations—especially small-business owners, independent contractors in today’s ‘gig economy’ and younger Americans transitioning between school and employment,”  he wrote in an op-ed.

The administration has gone to “significant lengths,” he said, to ensure that customers are aware of the plans’ limitations before they sign up and to get the word out that “they are not the right choice for everyone.”

“In fact, we require more robust warnings about the limits of these plans than President Barack Obama’s administration did,” he said.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2023, 2 million more people who are currently uninsured will gain coverage through these short-term plans.

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