By Jack Phillips
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday blocked a Democratic-led effort to roll back a Trump administration rule that allows states to ignore portions of Obamacare.
Senators voted to reject the resolution, 43-52, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote for the resolution.
Democrats were attempting to overturn a White House rule that makes it easier for states to opt-out of some of the health care law’s requirements while allowing for cheaper, less-inclusive plans, according to The Hill.
“I’ve been listening to my Republican colleagues say for years and years that though they don’t love everything about the Affordable Care Act, they want to protect people with preexisting conditions,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters, Politico reported. “Well, here’s their chance.”
Some Democrats were absent during the vote.
But Republican Senators said the move is merely a political stunt, saying the White House’s rules are aimed at lowering premiums.
“States are trying to take advantage of this provision of the Affordable Care Act that says states may have some flexibility in how they spend the money—as long as, the law also says, you don’t jeopardize preexisting condition [protections] for anybody,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
“We’ve been trying, since the Republicans started saying they are for protecting pre-existing conditions within health insurance, to put them on the record because all of their actions go the other way,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said before the vote, reported the Washington Examiner. “This is a tool that we can finally use to say, ‘okay, if you really want to protect pre-existing conditions, vote with us today.’”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, criticized the Democrats on Wednesday.
“Democrats’ resolution has zero chance of becoming law. This is just another political messaging exercise with no path to making an impact,” McConnell said via The Hill.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is asking a federal appeals court in New Orleans to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, an overhang of uncertainty clouding its future.
For now, the Department of Health and Human Services is touting a second consecutive year of positive-sounding numbers. An additional 20 insurers will participate for 2020, expanding consumer choice in many states, officials said.
Nearly 70 percent of customers will have three or more insurers from which to pick a plan. About 10 million people are covered through the health law’s insurance markets, which offer taxpayer-subsidized private plans for people who aren’t covered on the job. Former President Barack Obama’s namesake law will be 10 years old next year.
“Until Congress gets around to replacing it, the president will do what he can to fix the problems created by this system for millions of Americans,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage this law has been better at running it than the guy who wrote it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.