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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 MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenUS to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK Poll: Dem incumbent holds 5-point lead in Oregon governor's race Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence House Democrat questions big tech on possible foreign influence in Kavanaugh debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Key Democrat will ask for Trump tax returns if House flips Better health outcomes at lower costs is a win that everyone can get behind 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.”