White House threatens veto of Upton bill

Getty Images

The White House issued a formal veto threat Thursday night of a bill offered by House Republicans that would allow insurance companies to continue offering health plans that existed before the beginning of the new year.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), was passed by the House Friday in a 261-157 vote.

ADVERTISEMENT
In a statement from the Office of Management and Budget, the administration argues the law is intended to “sabotage” ObamaCare.

“[The bill] rolls back the progress made by allowing insurers to continue to sell new plans that deploy practices such as not offering coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men, and continuing yearly caps on the amount of care that enrollees receive,” the statement said.

Millions of Americans have received cancellation notices from insurance companies saying that their current plan will no longer be available under ObamaCare. Originally, the law did not permit grandfathering of plans that had been purchased or substantially altered since the health bill was passed three years ago. Some insurance companies also opted to stop offering plans that did not satisfy the minimum coverage requirements mandated for new enrollees under the Affordable Care Act.

That led to a firestorm of criticism for the Obama administration, and an announcement from the president Thursday afternoon of a new administrative regulation intended to address the issue.

Under the administrative fix, insurance companies are permitted to continue offering existing plans to current enrollees, regardless of when they signed up for coverage or if that coverage was recently altered. But unlike the Upton bill, insurance companies can’t offer the bare-bones plans to new enrollees.

Democrats have worried that if insurers were allowed to offer the cheaper, lower-quality plans to new customers, the young, healthy individuals central to the success of the ObamaCare exchanges would choose the less expensive options, dooming the reform effort. Moreover, those individuals’ plans would lack the consumer protections central to driving down health costs under the law.

“I will not accept proposals that are just another brazen attempt to undermine or repeal the overall law and drag us back into a broken system,” Obama said Thursday.

Despite the administration’s veto threat, many Democrats could vote for the legislation, seeking political cover for the midterm elections. Democratic leaders have not yet said whether they’ll whip against the legislation.

But Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told CNN on Thursday she was confident that Democrats would hold rank against the bill.

“Tomorrow when that legislation comes on the floor, I’m confident the Democrats are going to stand, as we have, in unity to continue to support fully implementing the Affordable Care Act,” she said.