Senate Democrats to force vote on Trump health care moves

Senate Democrats will force a vote to block the Trump administration from allowing states to make changes to their ObamaCare markets.

Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate can overrule and block some actions taken by government agencies.


While it’s unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, it gives Democrats another opportunity to hit the GOP on health care and protections for pre-existing conditions ahead of the 2020 elections.

“Everyone says they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington mourns loss of Elijah Cummings Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (D-Va.) told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.

“This is a chance for Republicans, on a simple up or down vote … to see where they stand.”

Guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allows states to waive some requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

That could lead to states offering ObamaCare subsidies for plans that don’t meet ObamaCare’s requirements and that don’t cover people with pre-existing conditions.

This could drive healthier, younger customers away from the ObamaCare markets, raising premiums for those who remain, health experts say.

“This would further erode the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces and split the health insurance marketplace into two: one market for young and healthy people, the second for older individuals and those who have pre-existing conditions,” said Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGraham, Van Hollen introduce Turkey sanctions bill Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing US envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy MORE (D-N.H.).

“We know that this would drive up costs for comprehensive coverage and leave many with pre-existing conditions with no other affordable options.”

So far, no states have applied for these waivers to offer less comprehensive plans.

Instead, states have sought waivers to strengthen their ObamaCare markets, creating programs that help insurers pay down expensive claims for people with pre-existing conditions.

While Democrats running for president are focusing on "Medicare for All," Democrats in the Senate have tried to tie Republicans to the Trump administration’s attempts to “sabotage” ObamaCare.

The vote will give Democrats defending their seats in 2020 something to point to, and the opportunity to put vulnerable Republicans in the hot seat.

Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Trump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing MORE (R-Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists GOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine) are all top Democratic targets next year, according to The Cook Political Report.

Collins voted with Democrats on a similar resolution in October that would block the administration’s rule expanding access to short-term health plans that don’t meet ObamaCare requirements.

The Democrats' messaging on pre-existing conditions was successful in 2018, when House Democrats won back the majority. 

The Democrats hope to win back the Senate in 2020, but face a tough election map.