Republicans used a technicality on Friday to prevent the House of Representatives from considering a measure that would have extended additional consumer protections to beneficiaries who remain in their existing individual health care plans.
Democrats offered their “motion to recommit” as an alternative to a proposal introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) that allows insurers to maintain their existing policies and permits issuers to offer these plans to new customers. The Democrats’ version only extends grandfather status to current policyholders who have received cancellation notices and includes consumer protections missing from the Upton bill. For instance, the measure mandates that insurers notify policyholders of exchange options and consumer protections. It also explicitly clarifies that existing rate review authorities apply to renewed plans.
But after Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) introduced the Democrats’ proposal, Upton stood up and objected to the consumer protections contained within it, arguing that they went beyond the scope of his own bill. The chair, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), then read off the offending provisions and ruled that the proposal was not germane, preventing the House from even considering it:
The amendment proposed in the motion to recommit in pertinent part requires state insurance commissioners to examine notices of health insurance cancellations or conversions. It also addresses the regulation of health insurance rates, specifically the amendment delineates what would constitute inadequate notice of cancellation or conversions of health insurance coverage and directs state insurance commissioners to investigate such cases of inadequate notice. Additionally, it permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services or the relevant state insurance regulator to take corrective actions if health insurance rates are determined to be excessive, unjustified, or discriminatory….The chair therefore finds that the amendment proposed in the motion to recommit goes beyond the subject matter of the underlying bill. The point of order is it is therefore not germane.
Andrews sought to defend his measure ahead of the ruling, arguing that while the Democrats’ proposal includes additional safeguards, it “does not rise to a difference in germaneness.” Although he appealed the chair’s decision, the GOP-controlled House voted against him.
The House approved Upton’s bill in a vote of 261 to 157. 39 Democrats voted for it, 4 Republicans opposed it.