House votes to block Trump’s eased health coverage rules

May 9, 2019 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration would be blocked from easing coverage rules required by President Barack Obama’s health care law under legislation Democrats pushed through the House on Thursday as the two parties rejoined a battle that roiled last year’s congressional elections.

Under guidance the administration issued last year, states could allow insurers to offer low-cost, low-coverage policies that could deny coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Democrats said that by blocking that language, Thursday’s bill would protect patients with pre-existing conditions.

“You pass this waiver, you are going to wave goodbye to the protections that we fought long and hard for pre-existing conditions,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.

Republicans and administration officials said the guidance did not erode those protections and said they support protecting people with pre-existing medical problems. They said the administration rules were aimed at giving states more flexibility to try cutting consumers’ health insurance costs, and objected to the name Democrats gave their legislation — the Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions Act.

“This cynically titled messaging bill is all about scoring political points, not legislating,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

The greatest practical impact of Thursday’s bill, which passed by a mostly party-line 230-183, was likely to be for positioning for the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. It had no chance of clearing the Republican-led Senate or getting Trump’s signature.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans tried unsuccessfully to repeal Obama’s law in 2017, and have pushed a federal lawsuit aimed at scuttling it. Democratic assertions that the GOP was threatening coverage for people with pre-existing conditions helped them win control of the House in last November’s elections.