Politics

Democrats Seize on Trump Administration’s Latest Obamacare Move

New administration proposal will lead to more ‘junk’ health plans, minority party says

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer says Republicans “are once again undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Democrats have seized on a Trump administration proposal to loosen restrictions on some health insurance offerings as the latest way to attack Republicans over protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

“The American people should look at what Republicans are doing, rather than what they’re saying, when it comes to health care. Just weeks before the election, Republicans are once again undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions and sabotaging our health care system,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a statement.

The Trump administration on Monday released guidance outlining how it would consider and approve waivers under the 2010 health care law that seek to give states more flexibility over their insurance markets by exempting them from requirements.

The revised guidance for Section 1332 waivers, which were known as state innovation waivers and are now dubbed state relief and empowerment waivers, prioritizes private insurance over public programs and encourages states to offer short-term plans and association health plans

“The new guidance we are issuing today builds on the new flexibility we’ve already given states through our rule making to lower premiums and increase choices for Americans,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said on a call with reporters.

But Schumer said the move amounted to the administration “plainly” admitting that it intends “to use taxpayer dollars to fund junk insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions, which could lead to medical bankruptcy for many American families, in order to pad the pockets of health insurance executives.”

The message from the New York lawmaker was quickly echoed by the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats.

“Republican candidates across the country have been lying about their records and policies to claim they support coverage of pre-existing conditions for months,” Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

The criticism of Republicans over health care and protections for pre-existing conditions, especially as it relates to their support for a Texas-led lawsuit that could upend the health care law, has been among the most consistent messages of Senate Democrats this cycle.

While Democrats think the revised guidance will lead to more “junk” insurance plans in the marketplace, Republicans praised the increase in flexibility, citing issues with the earlier innovation waiver process.

“In four bipartisan health committee hearings I chaired last fall, virtually every witness told our committee that waiver application is too cumbersome, inflexible, and expensive for states to use,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.

The Tennessee Republican argued that Democrats refused to work on the problem legislatively.

“I tried to fix this problem in Congress,” Alexander said. “But Democrats have elevated Obamacare to the 67th book of the Bible and refused in March to fix even a word of the law’s waiver provision.”

Watch: GOP Shifts Messaging on Health Care Ahead of Midterm Elections

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