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H.R. 954: CO-OP Consumer Protection Act of 2016

Sep 27, 2016 at 4:45 p.m. ET. On Passage of the Bill in the House.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 954 (114th) in the House.

Under the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, a number of Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans — or non-profit marketplaces to provide individuals with health insurance — were set up. Unfortunately, many of these little-known “CO-OPs” have failed, with onlysix out of the original 23 exchanges still in existence.

But the requirement that every American must have health insurance or pay a fine? That’s still in existence, even for the many people whose health insurance was provided through one of those CO-OPS. A bill that just passed the House would exempt those individuals.

What the bill does

The CO-OP Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 954 and S. 3311, would exempt anybody who lost their health insurance because of a CO-OP failure from paying the required fine for those who don’t have health insurance. This year, that fine is either 2.5 percent of one’s income or $695 per adult, whichever is higher.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE3) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), both of Nebraska. After the House version was introduced all the way back in February 2015, it passed the House in September 2016 on a 285–165 vote. Although Republicans were unanimous in their support, 16 Democrats also crossed the aisle to vote in favor.

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill fixes an unintended consequence of CO-OP failures and prevents an unnecessary tax on a not-insubstantial segment of Americans.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost health coverage because of these coop failures. And the damage does not end there. Because of Obamacare’s individual mandate, those same folks are now subject to a tax penalty for not having insurance,” House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA6) said in last week’s Weekly Republican Address.

“The same law that encouraged people to sign up for these doomed coops — and did nothing while they imploded — is now penalizing folks who lost their coverage. This is ridiculous, and the American people should not have to put up with it.

What opponents say

Opponents argue the bill would create unnecessary exemptions in a law that should apply to everybody equally, and that this bill is just another Republican-led attempt to dismantle Obamacare piece by piece after unsuccessfully attempting to repeal it wholesale at least 62 times.

“In such circumstances [where health insurance is lost or cancelled], the Administration has offered special enrollment periods, provided consumer outreach, and worked with state departments of insurance to ensure consumers have smooth transitions to other health plans,” the White Housewrote in their statement of intent to veto the bill. “[The bill] is unnecessary given consumer protections already available.”

“The [individual mandate] provision helps prevent people from waiting until they get sick to buy health insurance or dropping health insurance when they believe they do not need it,” the statement continues. “Weakening the individual responsibility provision would increase health insurance premiums and decrease the number of Americans with coverage.”

Odds of passage

The bill passed the House in September after attracting seven cosponsors, all Republicans. It now goes to the the Senate, where it has also attracted seven cosponsors, all Republicans. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it awaits a vote.

Totals

All Votes R D
Aye 61%
 
 
258
242
 
16
 
No 39%
 
 
165
0
 
165
 
Not Voting
 
 
8
3
 
5
 

Passed. Simple Majority Required. Source: house.gov.

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Study Guide

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You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the bill this vote was about, see here.

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