Dems decry ObamaCare change as new attempt at 'sabotage'

Dems decry ObamaCare change as new attempt at 'sabotage'
© Greg Nash

Three high-ranking Democrats blasted the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to expand access to plans that don’t meet ObamaCare’s requirements, calling it the “latest step” in the White House’s “effort to sabotage our nation’s healthcare system.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule Tuesday that would increase the maximum length of short-term health plans from less than three months to nearly a year. The three-month limit had been set by the Obama administration.

Democrats have warned against pushing people toward short-term plans, noting they don’t have to cover the array of services that must be covered under ObamaCare. The plans can also charge people with pre-existing conditions more money.

In a joint statement, three ranking Democrats of committees with some jurisdiction over health care decried the rule as a measure aimed at unwinding ObamaCare’s consumer protections.

“Today’s action will leave families on the hook for thousands of dollars in uncovered healthcare costs and allow insurers to once again discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions,” said the statement from Education and Workforce ranking member Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill MORE (Va.), Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneFacebook takes down anti-NATO pages linked to Russia Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Dem chairwoman plans hearing on Medicare for all proposals MORE (N.J.), and Ways and Means ranking member Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts Mnuchin refuses to testify at hearing on shutdown impacts On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (Mass.).

“Widespread marketing of these bare bones, junk plans will further destabilize health insurance markets, and will lead to higher premiums for everyone,” the statement continues. “The American people want access to high quality, affordable health insurance, and it is time for the Trump Administration to stop its relentless and destructive campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.”  

The administration says the proposed rule will provide another, often cheaper option for consumers, particularly for people who are in between jobs, whose doctors are out of network under plans on the ObamaCare marketplaces or whose coverage is pricey. 

“The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them.”

The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said on a call with reporters that the agency estimates only about 100,000 to 200,000 people would move from the law’s marketplaces onto the short-term plans.

About 11.8 million people signed up for plans on the ObamaCare exchanges for this year.

Last year, Republicans failed to deliver on their years-long promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and the Trump administration has been looking for ways to alter the law on its own.

The GOP tax law repealed the individual mandate that most individuals have health insurance or pay a fine, and spending bills have delayed the implementation of some taxes, but the bulk of the law’s core elements remain in place.