Senate adds penalty for going uninsured to healthcare bill

Senate Republicans on Monday released a revised version of their healthcare reform bill that adds a provision requiring consumers with a break in coverage to wait six months before buying insurance. 

The Senate bill would make those who had a lapse in coverage for 63 days or more wait six months before obtaining insurance. Read the bill here.

The continuous coverage provision was noticeably omitted from the Senate’s draft, but aides said they were working behind the scenes to add it. The provision addresses concerns that people would only sign up for health coverage when they’re sick if insurers can’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.  

The addition of the six-month waiting period could make it more difficult to pass the legislation if the Senate parliamentarian rules the provision violates the complex budget reconciliation rules. Republican leadership was working over the weekend to make sure the provision complies with the rules and can be included.

{mosads}It’s unclear whether Senate Republicans will have the votes to pass the bill, with at least five Senate Republicans on record as opposing the bill in its current form.

On Monday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) doubled down that a vote will be this week. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it will issue its analysis of the bill on Monday afternoon. A Senate aide told The Hill the CBO report will include the six-month lockout provision.

The continuous coverage provision is intended to prevent a “death spiral” in insurance markets. 

Experts have long warned that only sick people buying insurance would lead to massive premiums and the destabilization, and eventual collapse, of the individual insurance markets. 

ObamaCare sought to deal with the problem with the individual mandate, a penalty for going uninsured, but the Republican bill would repeal that mandate.

The House dealt with the issue differently that the Senate. It included a 30 percent premium surcharge for new enrollees who had a lapse in insurance for more than 63 days. 

– This story was updated at 1:53 p.m.

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