WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats said Thursday they will try to block President Donald Trump’s new rule that allows consumers to buy short-term health insurance that doesn’t meet Affordable Care Act requirements
The new rule on short-term, limited-duration insurance expands this market by offering access to cheaper plans than those in health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, and they can buy the insurance for a year compared with the current three-month limit; they will be able to renew the plans for up to three years. Short-term, limited-duration insurance in the past has been aimed mainly at people who are between jobs or have other short-term needs. The Trump administration said it wants to give consumers more choices in the individual market risk pools.
“These plans are nothing short of junk,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in press briefing call Thursday. “When people buy them, they are always going to be disappointed.”
Schumer said Democrats will introduce a resolution to rescind the rule using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to revoke an administration regulation with a simple majority any time up to 60 legislative days after it is published in the Federal Register.
There are 51 Republicans in the Senate, but Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been battling brain cancer and not been in Washington for months. The 49 Democrats only need one or two Republicans to vote in favor of blocking the rule, Schumer said.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., a member of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, will take the lead in pushing for passage of the resolution of disapproval.
“[Trump] has been sabotaging our health system by undermining guaranteed health protection and access to affordable care,” said Baldwin. This sabotage has already created “severe instability,” and notable premium spikes in Wisconsin earlier this year, she said.
The new plan will not require insurers to cover prescription drugs, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, maternity care or people with pre-existing conditions. “We can’t let the Trump administration and big insurance companies rewrite the rules,” said Baldwin.
However, Edmund F. Haislmaier, senior health policy researcher of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said people who are already sick and getting Obamacare subsidies will not be affected.
“The people who benefit most from this plan are self-employed or small business owners in the individual market that were hit the hardest by the skyrocketing premiums under Obamacare,” said Haislmaier.
He cited a Health and Human Services Department study that said that average premiums for individual market insurance rose 105 percent from 2013 to 2107 under the Affordable Care Act. The Trump rule is an attempt to provide people who have left the market with an “alternative option,” he said.
“People who have already jumped off the sinking ship are looking for the right boat in the water for them,” said Haislmaier.