A Republican health care plan that could receive a vote in the U.S. Senate as early as this week retains coverage protections for people with pre-existing health conditions — but U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says that needs to change.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is among a cadre of undecided GOP senators who could determine the fate of the proposal.
A Johnson op-ed in The New York Times published Monday makes clear that — unlike some GOP moderates who fear the proposal will reduce health care access, particularly through deep Medicaid cuts — Johnson doesn’t think the bill goes far enough to roll back former President Barack Obama’s health care law, also known as Obamacare.
Johnson previously urged Republican senators to slow the effort to bring the bill up for a vote as soon as this week. But the op-ed was Johnson’s first detailed explanation of his concerns with the measure.
Johnson wrote that the Senate bill is flawed in part because “it leaves in place the pre-existing-condition rules that drive up the cost of insurance for everyone.”
Obamacare bars insurers from denying coverage to people or charging them more based on a pre-existing health condition.
The Senate bill largely preserves those protections, though it would permit states to allow insurers to not cover costs associated with some conditions, according to a Washington Post report. A bill that passed the U.S. House last month would permit states to allow insurers to charge more to cover people with pre-existing health conditions if that person had a break in coverage.
In the op-ed, Johnson writes that “we should look to improve successful models for protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions, models underway prior to Obamacare, such as those in Maine and Wisconsin.”
In the past, Johnson has cited high-risk coverage pools as a solution for people with pre-existing conditions.
Experts told the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this year that Wisconsin’s high-risk pool, which operated from 1979 to 2014, “was a huge factor in the state’s success in offering a competitive insurance market” for individual coverage.
The flipside: the pool was too expensive for many people and left more than half a million residents uninsured. The pool had a six-month waiting period for coverage of pre-existing conditions and a lifetime cap of $2 million, similar to high-risk pools in other states but unlike coverage under the federal health law.
CNN correspondent Dana Bash tweeted late Monday that Johnson told her he would vote against proceeding on the health care plan if Senate leadership insisted on moving forward this week.
State Journal reporter Logan Wroge contributed to this report.