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WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Senate split 50-50 Wednesday over an initiative from Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, to disapprove a rule over the expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

In August, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, Labor Sec. Alexander Acosta and Health and Human Services Sec. Eric Hagan issued a rule expanding the duration of these insurance plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements.

The 2010 ACA law allowed the sale of short-term insurance plans to serve as a stop-gap between long-term plans. The Trump Administration’s rule allows those plans to be extended as long as three years.

The plans are cheaper than long-term plans but do not offer the same level of coverage as plans that comply with the ACA; prescription drugs, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and mental health coverage are not required to be covered in these short-term plans.

Wisconsin senators split

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, voted against Baldwin’s bill, saying the Trump Administration’s rule was giving people more-affordable health insurance options.

“The reality is that for the forgotten men and women, Obamacare premiums are unaffordable,” Johnson said in a statement. “According to estimates from the Urban Institute, of the 4.3 million who will buy (short-term) plans, 1.7 million will be those who would otherwise be uninsured. A vote to overturn this rule is a vote against affordable health insurance, and a vote against personal freedom and choice.”

Those gaps in insurance coverage have prompted Democrats to nickname the plans “junk insurance.”

S.J. Resolution 63, which Baldwin put forward, would have provided congressional disapproval of the new rule.

“This was an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to protect people’s access to quality, affordable health care when they need it most,” Baldwin said in a statement. “It’s disappointing that too many Senate Republicans failed to keep their promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage.”

The vote was split mostly along party lines with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Independent senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont siding with the Democrats.

“I will continue my fight to protect the guaranteed health care protections that millions of Americans depend on, because the people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take their health care away,” stated Baldwin. “They need us to work together to protect people’s health care and make it more affordable.”

Health care on the campaign trail

The Republican candidate running against Baldwin, State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, has been defending her push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying she would “fall in front of a truck before I would let people go without coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

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Baldwin said repealing the ACA would “go back to the bad old days,” the Associated Press reported.

Baldwin is also a co-signer of Sanders’ “Medicare for all” single-payer health care proposal and has supported universal health care.

“I do want to get to a place where all Americans have access to affordable, quality coverage,” Baldwin said. “We have to figure it out one way or another.”

Vukmir said the “Medicare for all” bill, which she dubbed “Baldwincare,” would “completely turn our health care over to the government.”

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Baldwin up 10 points among likely voters. Last month, Baldwin led Vukmir by 11 points.

This week, during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Green Bay, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers re-upped his challenge to Gov. Scott Walker to drop the state’s involvement in a multistate lawsuit against the ACA.

In the latest Marquette poll, Walker received 47 percent support among likely voters, compared with 46 percent for Evers and 5 percent for Libertarian Phil Anderson.

“(I would) fall in front of a truck before I would let people go without coverage for pre-existing conditions.” Leah Vukmir, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

“I do want to get to a place where all Americans have access to affordable, quality coverage. ... We have to figure it out one way or another.” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin

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Reporter

Christina Lieffring covers the Burlington area and the Village of Caledonia. Before moving to Racine, she lived in Nebraska, Beijing, Chicago and grew up in Kansas City.

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