Roe balks at backing Trump administration move to eliminate mandated health insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions

Many Republican congressmen – including at least one member of the Tennessee delegation — are unhappy that the Trump administration has moved to eliminate a provision in the Obamacare law that assures health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, reports Politico.

The administration wants a federal court to strike the protections, providing fresh fodder to Democrats who argue that the GOP cannot be trusted to protect Americans’ health insurance months ahead of a midterm election in which health care was already a top issue. It also threatens to shift attention away from the GOP‘s message on tax cuts, refocusing it on an Obamacare fight most Republicans wanted to put behind them.

The administration late Thursday asked a U.S. District Court in Texas to do something congressional Republicans weren’t willing to take on themselves during last year’s repeal effort: Strike the most popular part of Obamacare.

Few congressional Republicans rushed to defend the administration’s move Friday, instead emphasizing their support for preserving pre-existing condition protections.

“I’m not going to have to defend anything I don’t agree with — regardless of who says it,” said Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee when asked if he would defend the administration’s request on the campaign trail this fall. He added that rising premiums for Obamacare coverage will force lawmakers to address health care policy next year.

… Within hours of the news, Democrats pounced on the Senate Republicans up for reelection this fall. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted releases questioning whether those Republicans — such as North Dakota hopeful Rep. Kevin Cramer — back the Trump administration’s decision.

Note: Besides incumbents, DSCC also issued press releases on the matter that criticize Republican members of the U.S. House who are running for the Senate – examples including Reps. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. But not Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, at least as of Saturday.

UPDATE Note: Press release from Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2018 — U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate’s health committee, today released the following statement on the Justice Department’s legal brief filed in a Texas lawsuit in federal court about the constitutionality of the pre-existing condition protections in the Affordable Care Act after Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty:

“There’s no way Congress is going to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions who want to buy health insurance. The Justice Department argument in the Texas case is as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard. Congress specifically repealed the individual mandate penalty, but I didn’t hear a single senator say that they also thought they were repealing protections for people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, Republicans are seeking to expand insurance options for Americans with pre-existing conditions through a new Department of Labor rule that will make lower cost employer insurance with patient protections available to the self-employed and more employees of small businesses.”

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