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AZ senators split on vote to overturn Trump health insurance policy

By: - October 30, 2019 5:11 pm

Photo by Pictures of Money | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democrats failed on Wednesday to overturn a Trump administration policy that allows states to ignore certain requirements of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. 

Democrats forced a Senate floor vote on a resolution that sought to unravel the controversial Trump administration health care rule. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was the lone Republican to vote for the resolution, which failed by a vote of 43-52. 

Arizona’s senators split: Democrat Kyrsten Sinema supported the resolution, while Republican Martha McSally opposed it.

The effort was seen as symbolic, given that there was virtually no chance of it winning support from the GOP-controlled Senate and the White House. Senate Democrats said it was an opportunity to put their colleagues on the record backing a Trump administration rule that would weaken health care protections. 

The policy in question allows states to skirt certain requirements in the Affordable Care Act. It would allow states, for example, to use federal cash to subsidize some short-term insurance plans with limited protections for people with pre-existing conditions, The New York Times reported last year when the policy was rolled out. 

Democrats in Congress have railed against the Trump administration policy for allowing a proliferation of “junk” insurance plans that don’t provide the comprehensive coverage envisioned by the sweeping health care law. 

“The administration has worked to make it easier for states to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize these junk insurance plans, many of which don’t cover essential benefits like maternity care, preventative screening and mental health care,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote. “These junk plans leave families vulnerable and are nothing but a boon to health insurance companies.” 

Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said ahead of the vote, “The Trump administration’s rule is not a good faith effort to bring down cost or drive innovation. It is a direct effort to undermine the stability of the insurance market and it is an attack on the viability of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.” 

The Trump administration has argued in federal court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down. 

Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said in a statement following the vote, “Senate Republicans are once again showing why they have no credibility when it comes to protecting their constituents’ health care. By throwing their support behind these junk plans, vulnerable GOP incumbents are recklessly exposing their constituents to higher costs, unreliable care, and weaker protections for critical benefits like pre-existing conditions coverage and maternity care.”

Democrats hammered McSally for her vote, accusing her of kowtowing to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies that have given heavily to her campaigns, despite pronouncements in the past that she wants to maintain coverage for pre-existing conditions.

“Martha McSally’s latest vote to undermine pre-existing condition coverage protections is just another confirmation that she’ll always put her corporate health insurance and pharmaceutical industry backers first in Washington, no matter the cost to people here in Arizona,” said Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson Brad Bainum.

Republicans have defended the policy shift in the new rule, arguing that it provides more flexibility for states. 

“Our Democratic colleagues want to roll back the Trump administration guidance and limit state flexibility,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. He called it “just another political messaging exercise with no path to making an impact.” 

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.