Senate Democrats Will Attempt to Nullify Trump’s Expansion of Short-Term Health Plans

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) answers questions at the U.S. Capitol on July 09, 2019 in Washington, DC. Schumer answered a range of questions during the press conference including queries on recent court cases involving the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Senate Democrats will attempt to force a vote in September that would nullify President Donald Trump’s expansion of short-term health insurance plans, which serve as a less expensive alternative to Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans.

Senate Democrats unveiled plans earlier this summer to force a vote on a resolution, in accordance with the Congressional Review Act (CRA), that would allow Democrats to overturn Trump’s expansion of short-term health insurance plans, which would enable health insurance companies to offer plans that cost less than ACA plans, also known as Obamacare.

Under the CRA, Congress can nullify recent executive rules through a simple majority in both chambers of Congress. Earlier in July, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that the Trump administration’s guidance on short-term plans could be considered a rule and therefore could be repealed under the CRA.

Democrats want to eliminate Trump’s expansion of short-term plans, believing that they serve as “junk” plans and could undermine Obamacare’s viability.

However, by trying to force a vote on a CRA that would eliminate short-term health insurance plans, Democrats could jeopardize health insurance coverage for potentially many Americans who, unable to afford Obamacare plans, have found refuge through short-term plans.

“What we’re talking about today is granting waivers to states to offer junk insurance plans,” said Schumer in July. “These plans let the insurance companies get away with everything, even murder, figuratively speaking.”

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute and a widely respected healthcare expert, told Breitbart News that short-term health plans serve as a “godsend” for Americans that find Obamacare plans too expensive.

Turner said, “Short-term, limited-duration health plans can be a godsend for people who have been priced out of the insurance market because of Obamacare’s high costs. As new CMS data show, millions of people who are not eligible for subsidies are dropping out of the market. It’s not because they don’t want health insurance; it’s because they can’t afford it.”

“I had a dad write to me about buying a policy for his two sons. He’s a single dad and could no longer afford an Obamacare policy for his family. Instead, he bought a less expensive short-term policy to cover his boys, and some months later, one of them was diagnosed with leukemia,” Turner continued. “The short-term plan paid $170,000 for his son’s care. The dad was enormously grateful for that policy option. Without it, he said, ‘I don’t know what I would have done.’”

“Surely Sen. Schumer does not want to deny people like this the option of affordable coverage,” Turner added.

“This would further erode the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces and split the health insurance marketplace into two,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who is up for reelection in 2020. “One market for young and healthy people, the second for older individuals and those who have pre-existing conditions.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate healthcare committee, said, “President Trump’s junk plans rule clearly works for insurers—and it works for the extreme special interests he wants to keep happy—but it will hurt patients and leave people across the country paying more for care they need. That’s absolutely backwards.”

The Senate Democrats’ CRA arises in the wake of a D.C. federal judge’s decision to uphold the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term plans. The Trump administration’s rule allowed Americans to purchase short-term plans for up to 364 days and renew the plans for up to three years. The Obama administration curbed these rules to encourage Americans to purchase Obamacare.

One study commissioned by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) found that short-term health insurance plans could cost 80 percent less than Obamacare “bronze” plans, which are the cheapest Obamacare plans.

Along with eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate, Trump’s expansion serves as one of the president’s most significant healthcare reforms.

Left-leaning healthcare experts from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) believe expanding short-term plans could undermine Obamacare by driving out young and healthier Americans from the Obamacare exchanges, and thus drive up Obamacare premiums.

However, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said this week that Americans continue to flee Obamacare because the “sky-high premiums” are too “unaffordable.” The CMS’s latest reports found that, between 2016 and 2018, 2.5 million Americans without Obamacare subsidies left the exchanges, which represents a 40 percent drop.

Verma said that the current exodus proves that Obamacare’s premiums remain too expensive for millions of Americans.

“As President Trump predicted, people are fleeing the individual market. Obamacare is failing the American people, and the ongoing exodus of the unsubsidized population from the market proves that Obamacare’s sky-high premiums are unaffordable,” said Verma.

As Verma explained that millions of Americans continue to flee the Obamacare exchanges, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that nearly four million Americans could enroll in a short-term plan or an Association Health Plan (AHP). Trump’s expansion of AHPs would allow for businesses and associations to create their own health insurance pools that cost less than Obamacare plans.

Land O’Lakes created the country’s first AHP; Land O’Lakes told Breitbart News that its AHP plans could save members anywhere from 15 to 45 percent compared to Obamacare individual market plans.

Even if Democrats were to pass the CRA through Congress, it would remain unlikely that Trump would sign a CRA that would unravel one of his signature healthcare reforms.

When the president signed the executive order expanding AHPs and short-term plans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) praised the order as “the biggest free-market reform of health care in a generation.”

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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