Top Dems press Idaho on plan to get around ObamaCare rules

Top Dems press Idaho on plan to get around ObamaCare rules

Top congressional Democrats are pressing Idaho on its controversial plan to circumvent certain ObamaCare requirements.

The top four Democrats on the congressional committees overseeing health care wrote to Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron on Thursday asking if his moves comply with federal law and requesting a staff briefing on the state’s plans.

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“We strongly oppose efforts that result in higher costs and undermine consumer protections that are guaranteed by federal law that protect women, people with pre-existing conditions, and others facing discrimination in access to health care, and therefore request an explanation of how the Idaho Department of Insurance will regulate insurance plans being sold in the individual market that are not compliant with federal law,” the letter reads. 

The letter is signed by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTrump officials seek to reassure public about safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine Overnight Health Care: Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing | US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe | Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDemocratic leaders are much more progressive than you might believe On The Money: Governors rethink opening bars, restaurants amid spike in COVID-19 cases | Spiking cases threaten fragile economic recovery | Supreme Court rules consumer bureau director can be fired at will OVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House threatens veto on Democrats' .5 trillion infrastructure plan | Supreme Court won't hear border wall challenge | Witnesses describe 'excessive force' used by law enforcement in Lafayette Square MORE (D-Mass.).

At issue is the Republican governor of Idaho’s move to allow insurers in the state to sell plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements in an effort to allow for cheaper plans. The new plans could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, which is not allowed under ObamaCare, and would not cover all of the health services required for ObamaCare plans.

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Democrats and many experts say the proposal is a clear violation of federal law.

Democrats say Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has a responsibility to step in to enforce the law. Azar has declined to say whether he plans to take action to block the move, indicating that he is waiting to see if one of the new health insurance plans is approved by the state.

The four Democratic lawmakers previously wrote to Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to press them about Idaho’s plans.

On Thursday, the Democrats released a response from Verma, dated Feb. 9, which did not say either way whether she would take action to stop Idaho’s move, which was announced in a bulletin from the state insurance department.

“At this time, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) does not have any additional information to share regarding this bulletin,” Verma wrote to Pallone. “We are committed to fulfilling our obligations under the law while continuing to work with states to provide flexibility where possible, and we are happy to keep you informed of any developments.”