Bloomberg: Centrist Democrats Tout Practical Fixes, Not Medicare-for-All

Jul 26, 2018
In the News

Centrist Democrats Tout Practical Fixes, Not Medicare-for-All

  • Moderates want Democrats to support practical health solutions
  • Move signals little support for bipartisan Obamacare fixes

By Alex Ruoff | July 26, 2018 9:02AM ET

A coalition of centrist House Democrats is urging colleagues to sign onto an Obamacare-repair bill to show voters their party has practical solutions to the issue of rising health insurance premiums.

Members of the New Democrat Coalition sent a letter to their nearly 70 caucus members recently asking they co-sponsor a bill that would increase the size of the tax credits some Americans receive to buy health insurance and eliminate the cap on eligibility for those credits. The changes could get more Americans to buy health insurance because the government would pay a larger share of the costs, sponsors told Bloomberg Law July 25.

The measure (H.R. 5155) isn’t as popular among Democrats on the campaign trial this year, unlike big ideas like Medicare-for-all. But, centrist Democrats told Bloomberg Law, voters are seeking practical solutions to the problems they face.

“What we have is a serious approach to address the challenges to our health-care system,” Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) told Bloomberg Law. “This is a step toward universal coverage, a step we could make.”

The move to get more Democrats onto the bill, proposed by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), also signals that bipartisan efforts to bolster the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets could be finished. Often bill sponsors try to get an even number of Republican and Democrat co-sponsors to build momentum in both parties.

Members of the New Democrat Coalition who earlier in the year worked with Republicans on a bipartisan ACA fix told Bloomberg Law they’re seeing little interest in a similar effort before the midterm elections.

Health care is a major topic for Democrats seeking re-election or trying to beat Republican incumbents in November. Many are adopting ideas like Medicare-for-all, which generally refers to expanding Medicare to all Americans and is getting pushback from Republicans who say it’s too expensive.

House Republicans are likewise honing their health-care message for voters. Lawmakers passed several bills this week, including expanding health savings accounts, which they plan to tout for voters.

Pallone Bill

The Pallone bill contains several measures that are also part of a bipartisan agreement among senators to bolster the ACA that fell apart earlier this year. The legislation would restore enrollment funds cut by the Trump administration and create a reinsurance program allowing states to effectively underwrite people with expensive medical conditions.

The measure would go further in blocking the Trump administration from completing work on permitting more short-term insurance plans that don’t have to follow the ACA’s insurance regulations, policies often derided by Democrats as “skimpy” or “junk” plans.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), a New Democrat who co-chairs the group’s health-care task force, told Bloomberg Law the measure “sets the framework” for getting to universal coverage, where all Americans have health insurance. He said the bill could be an early first step Democrats take if they gain control of the House.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a New Democrat and member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus, told Bloomberg Law that Democrats need to show voters they can govern when in power and set out practical solutions.

He said Republicans have given up on working with Democrats on ACA-related issues, but he believes that could change after the elections.

“We need to set a clear indication that Democrats are willing to govern instead of playing political games,” Schrader said. “Instead of coming out with something that has no chance of getting Republican support, here’s something that could get a lot of support.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bloomberglaw.com

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