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 MurrayDemocrats try to back Manchin off killing paid family leave proposal Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — Will the billionaire tax survive Joe Manchin? Patience wears thin as Democrats miss deadlines Crucial talks on Biden agenda enter homestretch MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats announce bill to rein in tech algorithms House Democrats ramp up probe of FDA approval of Alzheimer's drug Intercept bureau chief: Democrats dropping support of Medicare for All could threaten bill's momentum MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump lawyers ask judge to block IRS from giving his tax returns to congressional panel Manchin dampens progressive hopes for billionaires tax 535 'presidents' with veto power: Why budget deal remains elusive 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.”