Cantwell, Colleagues Press Trump Administration to Protect Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions

Letter signed by 40 senators calls for Trump administration to restrict “junk” health insurance plans and harmful state waivers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 39 of her Senate colleagues in calling out the Trump administration on its actions to undermine health insurance protections for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. The letter calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to protect people with pre-existing conditions and limit short-term “junk” health insurance plans that lack essential benefits and financial protections. 

“We have heard from patients, physicians, independent experts, and other health care stakeholders that individuals with pre-existing conditions are being negatively impacted by your administration’s actions. More recently, we have seen the real world negative impact on individuals who have unknowingly enrolled in these deceptively marketed junk plans,” wrote the senators. 

In the letter, they pointed to stories of Americans harmed by the proliferation of junk health insurance plans. 

“Just this month, Bloomberg reported Arizona resident David Diaz unknowingly purchased a short-term health plan that did not cover pre-existing conditions and placed ambiguous limits on emergency room care and other essential health care services,” the senators continued. “His family has been left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. The Washington Post similarly reported on Jesse Lynn, who purchased a short-term health plan not realizing his back problem would be considered a pre-existing condition. Jesse’s insurance company refused to cover his care – forcing his family into bankruptcy.” 

The letter comes in response to a Trump administration rule that allows states to not uphold federal consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, while using taxpayer dollars to subsidize junk insurance plans. Under this rule, states can allow insurance companies to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions by increasing costs and limiting coverage. The benefits excluded from these junk plans can include prescription drugs, emergency room visits, maternity care, and mental health care. 

“The administration’s rule on state waivers allows taxpayer dollars to go to these junk plans, accelerating the problems we are already seeing with junk plans and leaving fewer resources for people who purchase high quality insurance,” the letter continues. “Additionally, the administration’s new rule weakens coverage by allowing waivers that increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for those who need health care most. We have worked tirelessly to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions from barriers to coverage. We urge you to do the same, including by limiting the proliferation of short-term junk plans and ensuring that consumers in every state are protected by federal consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.” 

Senator Cantwell has long supported efforts to help Americans better afford health coverage while ensuring that plans cover essential benefits. She strongly opposed the Trump administration and congressional Republicans’ repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take health care access away from millions of Americans. Cantwell has previously spoken out on the Senate floor against junk health insurance plans, highlighting the harm they have caused to many Americans. 

“The state of Washington tried this… a group of state legislators allowed these junk plans to be sold along with compliant plans. Guess what happened? Nearly all of the insurers in our state pulled out of the individual insurance market and a death spiral ensued. Why? Because the cost then of that individual market was so high and so great, they couldn't service it,” Cantwell said in the floor speech

In addition to Cantwell, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

The text of the letter can be found HERE