Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “everybody” in the Senate wants to preserve consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions, an Obamacare provision that the Trump administration last week said is unconstitutional and should be struck down in court.
“Everybody I know in the Senate — everybody — is in favor of maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions,” McConnell told reporters in the Capitol. “There is no difference in opinion about that whatsoever.”
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Obamacare’s prohibition on insurance companies canceling or denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is among the most popular provisions of the 2010 law. Congressional Republicans opted to preserve the idea of having a requirement last year even as they laid plans to repeal the law. Several GOP health plans last year would have barred insurance companies from denying coverage over pre-existing conditions but would have done so by requiring people to maintain continuous coverage or face higher costs or a waiting period. Critics said those requirements wouldn’t be as strong as the one in the Affordable Care Act.
The Trump administration surprised its congressional allies last week when it asked a U.S. district court in Texas to strike the provision, along with the law’s individual mandate and Obamacare’s requirement that people cannot be charged substantially more than other people in the same age range and geographic area. Democrats immediately pounced on the Justice Department move, warning they would make it a prominent issue in the midterm election.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Tuesday said McConnell “lied” by asserting the Senate was unified in wanting to preserve pre-existing condition protections.
“Senator McConnell is wrong and the contrast between Republicans and Democrats on health care could not be more clear,” spokesman David Bergstein said. “Republicans like Senator [Dean] Heller, as well as every other GOP Senate candidate, want to slash coverage for pre-existing conditions – their latest plan would even make this coverage unconstitutional.”
McConnell blamed Democrats for creating chaos in health care markets by backing away from an agreement to stabilize the health care law. GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington crafted a plan to fund a pivotal Obamacare program in exchange for some flexibility for states.
“The president had agreed to sign it. And then the Democrats backed away, I think hoping there would be some kind of health care crisis in the fall,” McConnell said. “But make no mistake about it, whatever mess occurs could have been avoided by the bipartisan [agreement].”
Those talks fell apart over divisions on abortion funding prohibitions — a conflict that remains unresolved. Murray said she’s ready to negotiate a deal.
“If it’s true that every Republican now supports protecting pre-existing conditions, that’s news to very sick patients across the country who fought back again and again as Republicans tried to go back to the days when a pre-existing condition meant you might not be eligible for insurance, or could be priced out completely — especially since many Republicans continue to want to pass harmful bills to do exactly that,” Murray said in a statement.
McConnell also touted forthcoming regulations the administration could issue as soon as this week expanding association health plans, which he said could bring down premium costs.