On August 23, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and nine other Republican Senators, introduced the ‘‘Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act’’ (S. 3388). [See the bill text; legislative status and cosponsors; Tillis press release.] Among the cosponsors is Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the committee to which the bill has been referred. The bill is intended to protect access to health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, should the Affordable Care Act (or parts of it) be invalidated by the court in the above-mentioned case, Texas v. Azar (explained). The bill would guarantee that all individuals can purchase health insurance, and cannot be charged higher premiums based on their health status. However, the bill would not prohibit exclusions from coverage for a specific condition. (That is, the insurer could write a policy that does not cover the pre-existing condition.) The bill also would permit the insurer to base premiums on age, gender, occupation, and high-risk leisure activities, and to increase premiums for an employer based on a health condition of one of its employees. See Tweets of Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation; With New Bill, Senate Republicans Eye Damage Control Over Obamacare Lawsuit (Bloomberg, 8/24/18); Senate GOP Has Plan to Save Pre-Existing Conditions Coverage. “A Mirage,” Critics Say (McClatchy, 8/24/18). For more detail see Senators Consider Dueling Bills over Texas Individual Mandate Litigation (Health Affairs blog, 8/28/18).
In July, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and a number of Democratic cosponsors, introduced a resolution to authorize the Senate Legal Counsel to move to intervene in Texas v. Azar in order to defend the challenged provisions of the ACA. Manchin sought to include the resolution as an amendment to the health appropriations bill (see below), but the Senate leadership did not permit a vote on his motion.