House Republicans continue playing political games with Pennsylvanians’ health insurance

HARRISBURG, April 27 – Following an attempt by House Democrats to bring up legislation aimed at protecting Pennsylvanians’ health insurance, House Republicans used political gamesmanship to effectively kill any chance of the bills coming up for a vote in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Republicans today re-referred Democratic bills from the House Insurance Committee to the House Health Committee to avoid voting for popular measures to protect people’s health. House Democrats last week announced their intention to force these bills out of the Insurance Committee and to the full House for a vote due to inaction by that committee.

"Almost 50,000 of our Pennsylvania neighbors and family already contracted COVID-19, meaning they now have a pre-existing condition,” said Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, House Democratic Leader. “If the federal courts take away the ACA law, anybody with this diagnosis could be denied coverage. At a time like this, people need health security more than anything else, but House Republicans are playing games with four bills that would put the ACA’s most important protections into state law.

“These bills are urgently needed. Access to health care for working families, adults under age 26 and people with pre-existing conditions is under attack by Republicans in Washington and we need to guarantee our residents are protected here in Pennsylvania.”.

“Let’s be clear, this rereferral is an attack on the health of Pennsylvanians in the midst of a global pandemic when we’re fighting a virus that we don’t yet fully understand,” said Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., House Democratic Whip. “The long-term effects of COVID-19 are still being studied and to refuse to do something as commonsense as protect pre-existing conditions, like COVID-19, or prohibiting lifetime limits on coverage is callous and abhorrent.”

“This pandemic has brought to light — more than ever before — the importance of health care access,” said Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, House Democratic Appropriations Chair. “We need to ensure Pennsylvanians are not forced to choose between hitting an annual or lifetime cap on coverage or getting the crucial, life-saving care needed to fight COVID-19 or any other serious health problem. This type of impossible choice was, unfortunately, standard practice before passage of the ACA and we cannot go backwards, especially right now.”.

“As Chairman of the Health Committee, I’d welcome the opportunity to deal with substantive legislation to help people during a health crisis. Unfortunately, nobody believes that’s what’s happening here,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, House Democratic Health Committee chair. “It is pure cruelty to leave Pennsylvanians exposed to a sudden interruption in their health care when they are already so vulnerable.”

The bills that were rereferred to the House Health Committee had been languishing in the Insurance Committee for over a year with no action. Rereferral avoids meaningful action on this legislation and essentially prevents it from being considered again unless House Republicans change their opinions on the importance of protecting Pennsylvanians’ health insurance. The legislation rereferred includes:.

House Bill 471 (Schweyer) -- Would prohibit insurers from using a consumer’s pre-existing condition to deny coverage or a chance to purchase a policy if the ACA is eliminated.

House Bill 469 (DeLuca) -- Would require health insurance policies sold in the state to cover 10 essential benefits:

  • Emergency services.
  • Hospitalization.
  • Prescription drugs.
  • Maternity and newborn care.
  • Mental health and substance abuse disorder services.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Laboratory services to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
  • Chronic disease management.
  • Ambulatory patient services.
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

House Bill 470 (Frankel) -- Would prohibit annual or lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits.

House Bill 913 (Longietti) -- Would allow an insured employee of a group health plan to provide health insurance coverage to their adult child up to age 26.