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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 12, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 41
Democratic senators try but fail to save insurance coverage for preexisting conditions
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Democratic senators try but fail to save insurance coverage for preexisting conditions

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Senate Democrats tried but failed to block Trump-sponsored 'junk insurance' plans that would deny coverage for preexisting conditions.

In an October 10 vote, Democrats won over Republican Susan Collins of Maine, giving them 50 votes - one short of the 51 needed to block the Trump plans.

The senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), sought to overturn a Trump administration rule finalized in August that allows Americans to buy cheap health insurance that excludes coverage for preexisting conditions.

'Preexisting conditions' are medical problems that are known to buyers of insurance at the time they purchase policies. For example, a plan that denies coverage for preexisting conditions could refuse to pay for Truvada for HIV-positive people, even when the medication keeps them healthy and asymptomatic.

The Baldwin-sponsored resolution was brought to the floor after obtaining far more than the 30 signatures required to bypass the committee process and force a full Senate vote.

'These plans are cheap for a reason,' Baldwin said in a floor speech before the vote. 'They do not have to provide essential health benefits like hospitalization, prescription drugs, and maternity care.'

Baldwin pointed to one plan sold in her state that she said does not cover hospital care on a Friday or Saturday.

'So, it will just be your bad luck if you happen to get sick and need health care on the weekend,' she said.

Baldwin also said that requiring coverage of preexisting conditions is personal for her. When she was nine years old, she said, she was very sick and had to be hospitalized for three months.

'I eventually recovered,' she explained. 'But when it came to health insurance, it was like I had some sort of scarlet letter. My grandparents, who raised me, couldn't find a policy at any price that would cover me...All because I was a child who had been branded with those words: 'preexisting condition.' '

Sen. Collins joined with Democrats in supporting the resolution, which was opposed by the other 50 Republicans. To succeed, Democrats would have needed to lure the votes of at least two Republican senators in a chamber, where the GOP has a 51-to-49 majority.

Republicans say that consumers should be allowed to buy cheap insurance plans that may be less comprehensive than the plans than mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama's signature 2010 health-care law.

Health insurance experts say that allowing the sales of very cheap, but limited, insurance plans would drive up the price of comprehensive plans, ultimately making it impossible for people with preexisting conditions to afford health insurance.

On October 9, Trump issued the first veto threat of his presidential term, threatening to veto the Democratic measure if it reached his desk.

By forcing a vote on 'junk' plans, however, Democrats hoped to put a spotlight on a key issue they expect to cut their way in the November midterm elections, where control of both the House and the Senate are in play.

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