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 WarnerDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill 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 Shaheen2020 forecast: A House switch, a slimmer Senate for GOP — and a bigger win for Trump Lewandowski decides against Senate bid Biden would consider Republican for VP 'but I can't think of one right now' 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 McSallyDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses How Citizens United altered America's political landscape MORE (R-Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Romney: 'It's very likely I'll be in favor of witnesses' in Trump impeachment trial Schumer: Trump's team made case for new witnesses 'even stronger' 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.