White House Aide Struggles To Defend GOP Bill’s Pre-Existing Conditions Loophole

A top Trump administration official ended up conceding on Sunday that individuals with pre-existing medical conditions might end up with higher premiums under the latest effort by Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed White House director of legislative affairs about a provision in the GOP repeal bill that would allow states to seek a waiver from rules barring insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.

Short defended the provision ― referred to by Wallace as a “loophole” ― by saying Republicans do not want “Washington, D.C., choosing all the rates across the nation for all sorts of factors.”

The health care bill, proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, has been enthusiastically embraced by President Donald Trump but appears to face long odds of passing

The Affordable Care Act ― known as Obamacare ― forced insurers to cover people in the individual insurance market who have illnesses or other medical conditions that qualify as “pre-existing.” It also mandated that insurers adhere to “community rating” guidelines when setting premiums, charging the same rates for an entire region, rather than charging people with pre-existing conditions more or otherwise differentiating between customers based on medical histories.

The Graham-Cassidy bill preserves the first of these regulations, known as “guaranteed issue.” But it allows states to seek a waiver from federal “community rating” provisions so long as it is shown that “adequate and affordable” coverage is available to people.

Wallace insisted that without a clearer definition of “adequate and affordable” coverage, the White House and congressional Republicans were opening the door for people with pre-existing conditions to pay significantly more in premiums because of their health histories.

“That’s a loophole large enough to drive a tank through,” he said.

Short responded with bromides about devolving federal power to the states, but little in the way of substance disputing Wallace’s characterization of the bill.

Here is the exchange between the two on the matter:

WALLACE: I want to press on this point of pre-existing conditions. Because the Republican bill says states can get a waiver ― let’s put this up on the screen ― States can get a waiver from Obamacare protections if they explained to federal bureaucrats how…

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