House Democrats target center with election-year health care bill

The plan has virtually no chance of being adopted by the Republican-controlled Senate, but it comes amid new concerns about health coverage amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse.

It would further subsidize Obamacare’s markets by expanding federal aid for premiums and cost-sharing. And it would eliminate Trump administration policies, such as expanding the availability of short-term plans that compete with Obamacare coverage.

The plan incorporates some key aspects of House Democrats’ drug price bill, including language to make Medicare negotiate prices closer to what is paid abroad. That could be a sweetener for progressives who negotiated with Pelosi for months to move party reforms further to the left.

Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats hope for a repeat of their midterm electoral success in 2018 without alienating moderates and protecting incumbents in the swinging districts. They are also trying to contrast with the Trump administration, which is expected to file a report with the Supreme Court on Thursday that calls for the entire health care law to be repealed, in a case filed by conservative states. Last month, President Donald Trump claimed that he stands firm in trying to kill the law, despite some top administration officials having argued that it could harm Republican chances, by removing protections such as the ban on discrimination. to people with pre-existing conditions.

Legislation Pelosi and his leadership team devised could still antagonize the energized liberal flank of his party, whose members have protested a “bailout” for the insurance industry as they push for an expansion of non-employment public coverage .

“This has made many of our arguments clear,” said Melinda St. Louis, who runs the “Medicare for All” campaign at advocacy group Public Citizen. “In our view, the insanity of linking healthcare to employment is exposed at a time when tens of millions of people are losing their jobs and insurance.”

Pelosi spent the first half of the 116th Congress trying to appease progressives, allowing four committee hearings on Medicare for All. However, the two main health panels of the House did not finish advancing the legislation that would provoke a health system administered by the government.

Democrats also introduced a series of bills to offer public insurance to more people, including lowering the Medicare enrollment age to 50.

The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced progressive calls for Medicare for All, as more than 40 million Americans lost their jobs. Most people with business insurance obtain their health plans through work, and the financial consequences have led many to Medicaid and the Obamacare health exchanges, or left them uninsured.

In April, a group of 30 House Democrats, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Asked that anyone who loses their health insurance due to the pandemic or its financial consequences be allowed to enroll in Medicare.

In May, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Introduced a plan that would have the government directly cover health care costs for both the 87 million people who lacked medical coverage prior to the coronavirus attack and the dozens of millions more. fall into that category. Its co-sponsors include two senators currently in contention to be Biden’s running mate: Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) And Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Biden has fully embraced the ACA as the basic tenet of his own healthcare platform, but he also pushed beyond the law by adopting a public option that could compete against private insurance plans. Its website says the provision will cut costs by lowering hospital and medical prices.

Biden has also reached out to progressives, by creating task forces that include top Medicare for All advocates like Jayapal.

The change comes as both Medicare for All and a public option gain popularity. A May follow-up poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 56 percent support for a national Medicare for All system everywhere, and 67 percent support for a public option.

House Democrats privately acknowledge that the leadership bill was largely designed for campaign messages and to fuel the fate of vulnerable freshmen who overturned their red seats in 2018. Pelosi will present the bill. of law at a press conference with representatives Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.).

“I imagine it was about doing something as acceptable to as many caucus members as possible and highlighting the differences between the parties in health care during the week the Trump administration reveals its court report on the removal of the ACA, “a Democratic assistant to the House of Representatives told POLITICO. . “It is always the right time to expand health care coverage, but especially in the midst of the pandemic.”