This vote is on whether to begin debating a resolution that would cancel a portion of the 2010 health care overhaul law that exempts current health insurance plans (known as “grandfathered” plans). Specifically the resolution would get rid of new regulations that set criteria for how existing health insurance plans can be exempted from the new health care regulations. But these regulations also set thresholds for how much a business can change that health plan before it loses its grandfathered status.
Republicans have criticized the grandfathering criteria as too restrictive and suggested that these regulations would force many businesses to discontinue their existing health plans.
Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., said President Obama promised Americans that under the health care overhaul if consumers like their current health insurance, they can keep it, but that the administration “has broken that promise.”
“Earlier this year, the administration published a regulation that will fundamentally change the health insurance plans of millions of Americans. The reality of this new regulation is, if you like what you have, you can’t keep it. The new regulation implemented the grandfathered health plan section of the new health care law. It specified how existing health plans could avoid the most onerous new rules and red tape included in the 2,700 pages of the new health care law,” Enzi said. “This provision was a critical part of the new law. It allowed supporters to argue that current health insurance plans would be exempt from all of the rules and regulations created by the new law. Employers and health plans were told that the grandfathered protections would mean if you have coverage on the day the law passed, you could keep that coverage without having to make any major changes.”
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said as long as companies don’t change their health care plans too much, they can continue to be considered grandfathered under the health care law, and therefore exempt from many of the regulations.
“On the one hand, you want to give some flexibility to plans to be able to make reasonable changes. For example, if costs go up, they can increase their premiums somewhat. They can do certain things. But they cannot change the fundamental kind of nature of the plan and still call it a grandfathered plan. You want to protect consumers to make sure that what plan they signed up for is the grandfathered plan and not something else,” Harkin said. “For instance, if the regulations are overturned, which is what the Senator from Wyoming wants, insurance plans could change immensely. Yet that is not what you signed up for; for example, the grandfathering rule that says the insurer cannot significantly cut your benefits. Let’s say your insurer decides to cut from your plan conditions such as cancer or diabetes or heart disease. Let’s say they cut that out of your plan. Well, that plan would no longer be considered grandfathered because that is not what you signed up for.”
By a vote of 40-59, the Senate voted against opening debate on the resolution. Every Republican present voted to open debate. Every Democrat present voted against opening debate. The end result is that the Senate rejected a motion to open debate on a resolution that would have cancelled a portion of the health care overhaul setting out the conditions under which businesses can consider their existing health care plans exempt from the new law.