Senate rifts over pre-existing conditions stray from party lines

U.S. Capitol with flag
Senators are split on the best way to handle coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. (Getty/Andrea Izzotti)

As the Senate discussions on healthcare reform ramp up, senators are divided over how to handle provisions for people with pre-existing conditions.

Some conservatives favor simply repealing regulations that require insurers to cover people who have pre-existing conditions, while others are taking a stand in favor of keeping those protections. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced his own healthcare bill (PDF), the Patient Freedom Act, in January, which contains many of the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections. He said that the Senate's healthcare approach must pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test."

Kimmel put the spotlight on the pre-existing conditions issue earlier this month after opening up about his infant son’s health struggles in an emotional monologue (embedded below) on his show. These protections are popular with the public on the whole, too:

RELATED: Pre-ACA, pre-existing conditions long vexed states, insurers

Cassidy told The Hill that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is in line with President Donald Trump’s goals for healthcare reform.

“The president's been pretty adamant that he wants to take care of people with pre-existing conditions, and I'm not sure that particularly cares for people with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy told the publication.

Trump called for “insurance for everybody” while running for the presidency and after winning the election, but has since thrown support behind the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act.

The Congressional Budget Office’s score for an earlier version of the bill estimated that it could cause 24 million people to lose insurance coverage by 2024, and the Kaiser Family Foundation projected that the bill could lead to sharp premium increases for people with pre-existing conditions.

RELATED: AHCA could put 6.3M people at risk for higher premiums

Other issues the Senate is grappling with what role, if any, high-risk pools—touted by the GOP but criticized by Democrats—could play in an eventual bill, and how to ensure that the bill would fall under the requirements for budget reconciliation. The Senate is expected to significantly rewrite and moderate the AHCA.