Senators risk losing reelection if they fail to address ObamaCare

Now that lawmakers have finished with the last of its “must-pass” legislation, it’s time for the Republican-controlled Congress to go back and address its biggest disappointment so far: its failure to keep its campaign promises to repeal ObamaCare. I’m not talking about another frontal assault on that odious legislation, though that is what they promised and that is what their base voters are still demanding. I’m talking instead about other modifications the Trump administration and Congress can make to help reduce the outrageous premium increases caused by the law’s onerous insurance regulations.

The Trump administration has begun to address this on at least one front. Last October, President Trump signed an executive order directing the secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand the availability” of short-term, limited-duration health plans. “To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, the secretaries should consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer,” ordered the president.

{mosads}Pursuant to that order, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule in February that would allow the sale of short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans that would provide coverage for up to 364 days. That new rule would overturn a rule imposed by the outgoing Obama administration in October 2016, as it was walking out the door, that cut from 364 days to just 90 days, the length of time such short-term, limited-duration plans could be in effect, and which prohibited their renewal.

Clearly, even ObamaCare’s proponents had realized by 2016 that their law was such a turkey that they had to do everything they could to force people into the exchange marketplaces, even if that meant outlawing competing health insurance coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services is now taking public comment on the proposed rule. Those who want to make a comment can do so here until April 23.

That’s a good place to start. Short-term, limited-duration plans are not subject to ObamaCare’s onerous regulations and, consequently, are priced far more competitively. Were they to be made available for a full year again, it’s possible that millions of people now forced to pay ridiculous premiums — and those who simply cannot afford to do so — could find themselves more reasonably priced insurance.

But while the proposed new rule is a good place to start, it’s not an adequate place to end, for two reasons. First, as a rule, rather than a law, there’s no guarantee it would not be undone by the next presidential administration just as easily as the Trump administration is proposing this new rule to reverse the effects of the rule imposed by the Obama administration.

Second, even if and when the rule goes into effect, it will not go quite far enough, though it will extend the duration of coverage provided by such plans and thereby make them more attractive to consumers looking for options outside the ObamaCare exchanges, and it will still require purchasers to go through the process of looking for new coverage every year, an onerous burden in itself.

Instead, to make such plans really much more attractive, the plans should be renewable at the end of 364 days, so consumers wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of shopping for new coverage. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who happens to be a doctor, addresses both shortcomings in his new bill, the Improving Choices in Health Care Coverage Act. Under this bill, short-term, limited-duration plans could provide coverage for up to 364 days and be renewable.

For families in states where the health insurance market has been decimated by ObamaCare, especially the growing list of states where there is now only one approved insurer under the law, this proposal would have the positive effect of reintroducing competition and consumer options back in the marketplace.

Could such a bill pass the Congress? Certainly, there should be no difficulty passing it through the House. The question, as always, is the Senate. The real question there is, will the 10 Democrats running for reelection this year in states won by President Trump in 2016 really want to vote against increasing consumer choice and reducing premium costs while they’re running for reelection? Let’s find out.

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

Tags Congress Democrats Donald Trump John Barrasso ObamaCare Republicans

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