It looks like the Senate Republicans are going to have to include the same controversial waivers on pre-existing conditions that the House bill included. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said he thinks the Senate bill that is being discussed will allow states to waive some requirements for insurers. “I think there will be some authorities for states because, like the House, we want to give the states as much flexibility as possible,” said Thune, the No. 3 Republican in Senate leadership.
A Congressional Budget Office report released on Wednesday found that state waivers in the House bill could lead to very high premium costs for people with pre-existing conditions. For instance, in some states that would waive coverage regulations for insurers, people might pay more than $1,000 per month for maternity coverage, the CBO report indicated. The report determined that many individuals with pre-existing conditions would be unable to afford coverage if they lived in states that used the waivers.
When Senator Thune was asked how the Senate would avoid raising costs, he said: “That’s what we have to try and do is come up with options in our version of the bill that prevent those types of outcomes.”
This is the political problem that Republicans face because of promises made by GOP lawmakers and President Trump that the ObamaCare repeal would not lead to lost coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
The Senate, just like the House, has to balance the wishes of both their conservative members with their moderate members. Leadership has made it clear just how tough the path is to getting the 50 votes necessary. With a 52-48 majority, there is just too little margin for error. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Senate Republican said, “As Senator McConnell likes to point out, with 50 Senators needing to agree on this bill, everybody’s in a strong position, so we can’t roll anybody, so we’re going to have to continue to talk about that issue and try to come to consensus. There is no consensus yet.”
The key to getting a healthcare bill passed seems to be including waivers for states that will affect those with pre-exisiting conditions, but offering federal support for those who need it. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said, “We want states to have flexibility, but that’s why you need some kind of federal support or backstop like a risk pool or reinsurance so that people are comfortable that for chronic illness and pre-existing conditions, there’s going to be coverage there and that their premiums won’t become unaffordable.”
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said that any bill from the Senate must meet the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” referencing the passionate speech the talk show host gave in support of protecting those with pre-existing conditions.
The political stakes are high. . .do you think the Senate bill will include waivers for states that will increase premiums for those with pre-existing conditions?
Credit: The Hill