On a tie vote, Senate Republicans on Wednesday stopped an effort by Democrats to overturn a Trump Administration rule which allows the sale of certain short-term health insurance plans, preserving the option for consumers to buy less-expensive, reduced coverage policies which do not follow the full requirements under the Obama health law.
The vote was 50-50, as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined all 49 Democrats in voting to overturn the new rule, which has been heralded by the White House and Congressional Republicans as a way to make more affordable insurance available to consumers.
Democrats argued in vain that the less comprehensive offerings were nothing more than ‘junk insurance plans,’ which would not protect policy holders, leaving them open to not qualifying for coverage of pre-existing conditions and more.
“These junk plans will charge people more for coverage based on their pre-existing conditions or deny them coverage outright,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), as Democratic activists sought to make the vote a campaign issue for November.
“Junk insurance plans are exempt from covering essential services, like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, maternity care – or any service that treats pre-existing conditions,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
“What are junk insurance plans? It’s in the name. Junk,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
The effort by Senate Democrats drew a veto threat from the White House – the first of the Trump Administration – but in the end, it wasn’t needed.
“The new rule will increase choices for Americans facing escalating premiums and will create flexible options that are not currently present in the individual market,” the White House argued.
“Americans want and need more options for health care coverage – not fewer,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
“I come down on the side of more choices for consumers,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), as she said too many people were paying the penalty for not having insurance under the Obama health law, because they could not afford to pay for health insurance coverage.
“Thank goodness the vote forced by Democrats on short-term limited duration health insurance did not succeed,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “Overturning this rule is a vote against affordable health insurance.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the message from Democrats was simple: “We’re going to keep your costs for health care so high that you can’t afford it.”