House Dems Pass Obamacare Expansion, Seeking to Draw Contrast With Trump
Health Care

House Dems Pass Obamacare Expansion, Seeking to Draw Contrast With Trump

The Democratic-led House on Monday passed a bill to bolster Obamacare — and ramp up the political pressure on President Trump on the issue of health care as coronavirus cases surge across many U.S. states.

The legislation aims to strengthen and expand the Obama health care law by increasing subsidies to make premiums more affordable and increasing federal funding to encourage states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so. It would cap what people pay for premiums on exchange plans at 8.5% of their income and allow the government to directly negotiate the prices of certain drugs.

The 234-179 vote in the House, largely along party lines, sends the Patient Protection Affordable Care Enhancement Act to the Senate, where it is expected to die. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it gets to the president’s desk. But the legislation gives Democrats another chance to attack Trump’s record on health care — an issue they hope to make central to this election much as they did in 2018, and it does so days after the administration filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare in its entirety, including the law’s protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Overturning the health care law would take away health insurance coverage from about 20 million people. The administration’s support for the legal challenge to the law has sparked strong condemnation from Democrats and criticism from some Republicans concerned that their party is once again being tied to the elimination of Obamacare, especially as Covid-19 case counts continue to rise.

No Trump administration replacement plan: Trump on Saturday tweeted that “Obamacare is a joke!” and said he “will ALWAYS PROTECT PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS,ALWAYS!!!” But while the president pledged to come up with “a far better and much less expensive alternative,” his administration has yet to release a detailed replacement plan. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that the administration doesn’t expect to issue a plan until after the Supreme Court rules on the Obamacare challenge. The high court is reportedly likely to hear the case around the time of the November election, and its ruling could take months longer.

“We have made very clear that if the Supreme Court strikes down all or a large part of Obamacare because its constitutionally or statutorily infirm, we will work with Congress to create a program that genuinely protects individuals with pre-existing conditions," Azar told CNN on Sunday.

That’s asking voters to trust that the GOP will come up with an acceptable plan — a familiar request that has many analysts skeptical. “Mr. Trump claims that he would maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions and other popular elements of Obamacare. But he has no plan to do so,” The Washington Post editorial board said Sunday. “His position is for health-care chaos.”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reportedly told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that the burden should be on Democrats to work with the administration to come up with a replacement plan if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare. Asked if it is politically detrimental to pursue the invalidation of Obamacare, McEnany said: “The American public looks at this and what they say is this: If Democrats passed an unconstitutional law several years ago, then it's on Democrats to come forward with a solution. Democrats got us into this quagmire to begin with. And their untenable solution of government takeover of health care is not the answer.”