Senate GOP examining ways to repeal ObamaCare insurance rules

Senate GOP examining ways to repeal ObamaCare insurance rules
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are looking into repealing ObamaCare regulations on what services an insurance plan must cover, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynNew GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday. 

Leaving a meeting of the Senate's healthcare working group, Cornyn was asked if senators are looking at their ability to repeal ObamaCare's essential health benefits.

"I'd say yes, we're looking at it," Cornyn replied. 

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ObamaCare's essential health benefits mandate that insurance plans cover a minimum set of services, such as prescriptions drugs and mental healthcare. Many Republicans argue that provision drives up costs. 

"I think we're going to leave it up to consumers to decide what they want to buy and what they need," Cornyn said. 

It is unclear whether Senate rules governing the fast-track reconciliation process being used by Republicans would allow the essential health benefits mandate to be repealed. Reconciliation requires provisions be budget-related in order to be repealed using the process. 

Some conservatives are calling for states to be able to opt in to ObamaCare regulations, rather than opt out. Under that idea, a state could decide which ObamaCare regulations it wanted to keep or get rid of, potentially including essential health benefits as well as other provisions like community rating, which prevents insurers from charging premiums based on customers' health. 

That move could go farther than the controversial amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) in the House-passed bill, which allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of those ObamaCare regulations. 

The regulations were the subject of the Senate's working group discussion on Thursday. Senators emphasized that discussions are still preliminary. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Sen. Cassidy plans to bring down Medicaid Senate committee schedules hearing on health care block grants MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday went further, arguing that he personally thinks all of ObamaCare could be repealed under Senate rules because it is all budget-related. 

"We could repeal all of ObamaCare," he said. "I just don't buy the fact that we can't do that."