WASHINGTON — No state has taken advantage of guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that allows them to offer leaner, cheaper plans that discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions, but it isn’t stopping Senate Democrats from forcing a vote on the issue.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy joined a conference call Tuesday with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia to call for an end to the rule.
The trio said the Trump administration’s rule, if left in place, allows states to greenlight junk insurance plans that don’t fully protect people with pre-existing conditions, don’t cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs and maternity care, and raise out-of-pocket costs on many American families.
“I’m glad that we’re going to have a chance to vote on this,” Murphy said Tuesday. “I’ve been listening to my Republican colleagues say for years and years that though they don’t love everything about the Affordable Care Act, they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Well, here’s their chance.”
Schumer plans to use a law that allows Congress to undo regulations with a simple majority. By using the Congressional Review Act, Senate Democrats can force a floor vote on a resolution overturning the administration’s guidance on 1332 waivers.
“They can take a vote, this week, that protects coverage and rates for people with pre-existing conditions and we’ll see what they choose,” Murphy said.
The 1332 waivers have mostly been used for reinsurance programs, like the one the state of Connecticut is considering.
Traditionally, reinsurance programs under the 1332 waiver help insurers cover the costs for their most expensive patients, which then allows insurers to lower overall monthly premiums for everyone else.
Maryland, Wisconsin, Maine, New Jersey, Minnesota, Oregon and Alaska all have reinsurance programs that have been approved by the federal government.
Republicans and Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut believe the state should apply for a reinsurance waiver, but they differed earlier this year on how to pay for it.
A bill that passed the House and died in the Senate would have used a portion of premium to pay for the reinsurance waiver.
Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Shelton, has said he believes money from the general fund, about $20 million, should be used to fund the state portion of the reinsurance program, which would cover the costs of the sickest Connecticut residents while keeping down premiums for everyone else.
Lawmakers are currently considering drafting legislation for next year that would include a reinsurance program.
A study by Wakely Consulting found that Connecticut could have lowered its premiums by 5% in 2020 if it had gone forward with a reinsurance program. The May 23 study found the state might have been eligible for up to $28.4 million in federal funds to lower premiums 5%.
The study would have required the state to spend $19.2 million to $21.2 million in order to receive the funding, but it didn’t make any assumptions about where the money would come from.
Murphy is not opposed to using the 1332 waiver for reinsurance programs like the one Connecticut is considering.