Senate shoots down Enzi’s ‘grandfathered plans’ nonsense

SENATE SHOOTS DOWN ENZI’S ‘GRANDFATHERED PLANS’ NONSENSE…. The Senate calendar is very limited at this point, before the chamber could wrap up their pre-adjournment work, members were forced to endure yet another ridiculous health care debate.

This time, it was Wyoming’s Mike Enzi (R), perhaps best known for negotiating in bad faith on a compromise package last year, and boasting to constituents that he only talked to Dems so he could force concessions on a deal he’d later try to kill anyway. His new scheme, considered on the Senate floor today, involved repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act dealing with insurance reforms. It’s all about defining “grandfathered plans.”

Among other things, the new health reform law would require health plans to cover preventive care without cost-sharing, undergo reviews to see if their premium rate increases are unreasonable, and offer enrollees the choice of their primary care provider. But plans that existed when the law was enacted on March 23, 2010 — known as “grandfathered” plans — aren’t required to comply with these reforms.

The regulations define how much a grandfathered plan can change before it is considered a new plan that must abide by these new reforms and consumer protections. As we explained in a recent fact sheet, they strike a good balance for consumers, allowing people to keep the plans they have while ensuring that consumer protections kick in if an insurance company reduces a plan’s benefits or raises consumers’ out-of-pocket costs significantly.

Repealing the regulations, as Senator Enzi is proposing, would confuse consumers, employers, and insurers about which plans are grandfathered and which plans have to comply with market reforms. As a result, it would threaten the implementation of the immediate market reforms, thus making the insurance market less stable and would likely leave many consumers without access to critical protections the Affordable Care Act provides.

In a statement of policy, the White House explained, “By dismantling the (regulation) that set out the conditions under which health plans can qualify for ‘grandfather’ status, the resolution would limit individuals’ and businesses’ choice to keep the plan they had in place when the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Adoption of the joint resolution would result in significant uncertainty as to what kind of changes may be made to coverage without a loss of grandfather status.”

Regardless, the right loved it, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanded that Republicans support it. They did just that — the final vote was 40 to 59, 11 short of what was needed, with every Senate Republican on the floor today voting with their party, and every member of the Democratic caucus voting against it. The so-called “moderate” trio of Snowe, Collins, and Brown went along with the far-right crowd.

This resolution is a political stunt,” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. “It’s an election-season effort to take pot-shots at the new health care reform law.”

I think that’s entirely right, though the election-season scheme will very likely become a year-round crusade after GOP gains are reflected in the next Congress.