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Senate Dems Want Republicans to Take a Position on ‘Junk’

Baldwin hopes to force a vote to overturn Trump administration rule on short-term health care plans

Sen. Tammy Baldwin is leading the charge to reverse the Trump administration’s rule on short-term health insurance plans — or at least to get Republicans on the record. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin is leading the charge to reverse the Trump administration’s rule on short-term health insurance plans — or at least to get Republicans on the record. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote this week on a resolution that would overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

Critics call them “junk” plans, since they’re not required to comply with all the regulations of the 2010 health care law.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduced a disapproval resolution in late August that would reverse the administration’s rule. And on Tuesday, the Wisconsin Democrat filed a discharge petition signed by 47 senators — exceeding the minimum of 30 needed to bypass committee action and bring the resolution to a floor vote.

“These junk insurance plans can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and don’t have to provide essential health services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits and maternity care,” Baldwin said in a statement. “Anyone who says they support health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this resolution.”

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted on Monday that Senate Democrats would try to get a floor vote on Wednesday.

“On Wednesday Senate Republicans get an opportunity to demonstrate independence from Trump and vote against junk insurance plans. Tammy Baldwin’s bill will put them all on the record,” he said.

Baldwin last week announced the support of all Senate Democrats and independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with Democrats, for the resolution. It declares Congress’ disapproval of the rule and states the rule shall have no effect, and bars a similar rule in the future.

Two Republicans would need to support the resolution for it to win adoption, and it would need House approval and President Donald Trump’s signature to go into effect.

If it doesn’t win Senate approval, it would still offer a chance for Democrats to force Republicans to take a position on a sensitive topic in a year in which they have sought to make health care a key campaign issue. Baldwin has spoken with Republicans Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and planned to speak with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, her office said in August when she introduced the resolution.

The rule at issue was finalized in August and allows consumers to purchase “short-term limited-duration” health plans that don’t comply with all of the requirements under the 2010 health care law. Under the rule, consumers can keep them almost 12 months and renew them for up to three years. The Obama administration shortened how long a consumer can stay in a short-term plan to just under three months in 2016.

The rule took effect last week.

Democrats deride the plans as “junk insurance” and warn that patients could find themselves without coverage in an emergency. The administration argues that the plans are a more affordable option for some consumers. Companies selling such plans are required to prominently disclose that they do not meet all of the law’s regulations.

A coalition of health care groups have also targeted the rule through the courts, arguing that it does not meet the definition of “short-term” and would be harmful to patients and insurance markets across the country.

Additional patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the March of Dimes, filed an amicus brief in the case on Tuesday.

“Many individuals with short-term, limited-duration insurance who become sick will be unable to afford the care needed to respond to a life-threatening diagnosis, and will be forced to delay treatment for the months it may take to secure adequate coverage,” the groups said in a statement. “Without coverage when they need it most, people with serious illnesses could face serious financial hardship and potential bankruptcy paying for their care.”

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