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 WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces 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 ShaheenThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony 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 McSallyEx-FBI official names right-wing extremism one of the biggest security challenges for 2020 GOP senator eyes closing loophole to make domestic terrorism a federal crime Gun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate MORE (R-Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Hickenlooper ends presidential bid MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Top Foreign Affairs Republican: 'It would benefit all of us' for Omar, Tlaib to visit Israel 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.