Health Care

Democrats Won a Mandate on Health Care. How Will They Use It?

After House Democrats’ election triumph, Nancy Pelosi’s appraisal was clear: “Health care was on the ballot, and health care won.”

But how do Democrats intend to use the power they won?

The top priorities for Ms. Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, and her party’s new House majority include stabilizing the Affordable Care Act marketplace, controlling prescription drug prices and investigating Trump administration actions that undermine the health care law.

Administration officials who have tried to undo the Affordable Care Act — first by legislation, then by regulation — will find themselves on the defensive, spending far more time answering questions and demands from Congress.

House Democrats plan to hold early votes on proposals to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, an issue they continually emphasized in midterm races. The votes will test campaign promises by Republicans who declared their support for such protections.

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Democrats will push for the House to intervene in a lawsuit in which 20 states, with support from the Trump administration, are challenging provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

If the states’ lawsuit succeeds, legislation to shore up the health care law and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions could become a priority for Congress.

While Democratic leaders push legislation and investigations on Capitol Hill, several of the party’s potential presidential candidates will be urging support for a public health insurance option or even “Medicare for all.” Republicans, who retained their Senate majority in the election, are eager to attack Democrats over those proposals, which they portray as a threat to private health plans covering more than half of all Americans.

Some lawmakers want to try again next year to stabilize the marketplaces where more than 10 million Americans obtain insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Several ideas were set forth in a bill drafted by Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington.

One idea is to provide money to resume the payments to insurers that President Trump terminated in October last year. The payments offset the cost of discounts that insurers are required to give low-income people.


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