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.

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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 WarnerHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware 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 ShaheenOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Biden reveals four women he could pick as his running mate 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 McSallyOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Planned Parenthood targets GOP senators in seven-figure ad campaign Political ad spending set to explode in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities 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.