House Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill to “enhance” former President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law — giving an election-year proposal for Democrats to rally behind amid the coronavirus pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the 154-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act will get a floor vote next week. But it will then die in the Republican-held Senate.
The package side-steps increasing momentum among Democrats to adopt single-payer government health insurance and instead includes items with broader appeal.
The bill proposes capping the cost of “silver,” or moderate quality, healthcare plan premiums at 8.5 percent of income, and would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with companies.
Pelosi contrasted the package with the Trump administration’s pending case at the Supreme Court seeking to knock down the remnants of Obamacare.
“Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear the brief from the Trump administration as to taking down the Affordable Care Act, right in the heart of the time of the pandemic. It was wrong any time. Now it’s beyond stupid, beyond stupid,” Pelosi said.
President Trump said last year that Republicans would have their own election-year healthcare bill, to be approved after the election. But the precise timing of a GOP proposal remains unclear.
Healthcare policy generally is a liability for Republicans, but Trump has urged candidates to campaign on resurrecting Obamacare’s ban on insurance companies refusing people with pre-existing conditions. That ban may be undone in the Supreme Court case.
“We’re trying to kill it entirely, and then we will put it back. You’ll have great healthcare and pre-existing conditions will be totally protected,” Trump said at a February rally.
Through executive branch action, Trump has sought to lower healthcare costs, including by allowing importation of drugs from Canada, and forcing hospitals and insurance companies to publicly say the cost of services, which a federal judge upheld this week.
The Democratic plan is among an increasing number of election-year bills considered by the House despite no chance in the Senate.
On Thursday, House Democrats will pass a policing reform bill, despite the certainty of rejection by Senate Republicans pushing a less-drastic package. On Friday, the House votes on DC statehood, which Senate Republicans say they won’t consider. In May, the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus bill that Republicans said was only about “messaging” after four prior bipartisan deals.