Brian Chilson
Brian Chilson
HILL: Voted against protecting health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The U.S. House yesterday approved legislation meant to protect the Obamacare requirement that health insurers cover pre-existing conditions. All four Republicans from Arkansas voted against the measure.

Think Progress explains and makes the point that many of the 183 Republicans who opposed the bill — U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock is an example — had talked during 2018 about preserving pre-existing condition coverage.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidance around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last November that encourages states to make changes to their marketplaces even if that means skirting federal rules and putting people with pre-existing medical conditions in jeopardy of increased health care costs. The Kaiser Family Foundation called the change “significant,” as it “eliminates the requirement to demonstrate comparable protections for people with high health risks.”

A state, for example, could ask to subsidize plans that don’t cover addiction treatment, a plan that is useless for someone struggling with substance misuse. Healthier people, however, would likely gravitate toward such a cheaper plan. If enough people in perfect health flock to these less comprehensive plans, parallel markets would inevitably form based on risk posed to insurance companies. This means people with pre-existing conditions are left with plans that get increasingly expensive, especially if they don’t qualify for tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies.

So far, no state has asked the federal government to skirt ACA rules. But Reps. Ann Kuster (D-NH), Don Beyer (D-VA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) wanted to ensure no state gets the chance by introducing the measure that advanced on Thursday.

Republicans in Congress have demonstrated time and time again that they prioritize cheaper health plans over comprehensive ones. Yet, many have tried to distance themselves from their own voting records, especially ahead of the midterm elections. In fact, several Republican Senators introduced a bill last August called the “Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act” that didn’t protect sicker patients as much as current health law does.

The protection bill isn’t likely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

The point is made, however. Talk is cheap. Votes and policy have meaning.

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