House Democrats are planning a quick vote early next year to shore up protections for pre-existing conditions, hoping to put Republicans in a bind early in the new Congress, a top Democrat said Thursday.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said that Democrats are likely to pursue legislation that would counter a lawsuit from 20 states seeking to get rid of all of Obamacare, including pre-existing condition protections. Neal is currently the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee and could become the committee chairman when the Democrats take over the House in January.
“We need a vote on pre-existing conditions right away,” Neal told the Washington Post in an interview.
Neal said that he wants legislation to affirm that guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions was “settled law.”
A federal judge is expected to rule any day now on a preliminary injunction from the 20 states to immediately nix enforcement of the pre-existing condition protections. The Justice Department supports the lawsuit.
Democrats ran on protecting pre-existing conditions and repeatedly bashed Republicans for their vote last May to repeal Obamacare. The repeal bill let states waive Obamacare’s insurance regulations that ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions among other benefits.
The House bill went nowhere in the Senate last year.
House Republicans responded to Democratic attacks on the campaign trail by saying that they do wish to protect pre-existing conditions. Most Republicans did not mention that the Obamacare repeal bill that passed the House would have allowed states to ignore such protections.
Neal’s comments are the latest evidence that healthcare will be Democrats’ top priority when the next Congress convenes in January.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who will make a bid for speaker, said on Wednesday that drug prices could be an area of bipartisanship with Republicans.