KEY VOTE: “NO” on the Congressional Disapproval of the Trump administration’s “State Relief and Empowerment Waivers” (S.J. Res. 52)

KEY VOTE: Senate · Oct 28, 2019

Heritage Action opposes S.J. Res. 52 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

This week, the Senate will vote on a Joint Resolution (S.J. Res. 52) providing for congressional disapproval of the revised guidance issued by the departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury under section 1332 of Obamacare related to a “State Relief and Empowerment Waivers.” Sponsored by Sen. Warner (D-VA), S.J. Res. 52 would use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn a revised Trump era guidance that significantly expands the ability of states to reform their individual insurance markets to lower costs while ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions are protected.

Section 1332 of Obamacare allows states to seek waivers from certain federal health insurance regulatory requirements, which have contributed to the rising cost of health insurance, as long as the plan does not increase the federal deficit and provides comparable access to quality of care and insurance coverage.

According to Doug Badger, Visiting Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation:

The waivers that have been granted most commonly are for risk-stabilization programs. Premiums for benchmark plans in 2019 are lower in six of the seven states that have such waivers in place. The median premium decrease in those six states was 10.72%. Premiums rose by a median of 6.32% in 31 of the 44 states and the District of Columbia that did not obtain waivers.

The seven states that obtained waivers include Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Wisconsin. Premiums in those states fell by a median of 7.48%, while premiums in the other 44 states and the District of Columbia rose by a median of 3.09%.

The Trump administration's revised guidance builds on the success of the waivers by providing even greater flexibility to states to continue lowering costs for patients. Additional options now include delivering subsidies directly through personal health accounts, establishing high risk pools, and a number of other innovative solutions.

Senate Democrats dishonestly argue the Trump administration's new guidance is an effort to gut pre-existing condition protections, but this is simply an election year talking point without merit. States are not permitted to use section 1332 to waive consumer protections, including guarantee issue, rating rules, and the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions. Instead of trying to score cheap political points, Democrats should work with Republicans and the administration to provide states the necessary relief from Obamacare mandates they need to lower costs for middle class families struggling to pay for health insurance.

While Congress should vote down this resolution and protect the Trump administration’s actions on state innovation waivers, Congress should also work to address the root cause of the problem – Obamacare. Real health reform, like the ideas laid out in the Health Care Choices Proposal, is a good starting place for Congress to act.

Heritage Action opposes S.J. Res. 52 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.