Senate Democrats are expecting to force a vote this week that will raise your healthcare premiums and restrict access to quality healthcare for all Americans. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) wants to disallow states from obtaining a Section 1332 waiver, which has led to the only decrease in healthcare premiums since Obamacare was enacted.

Section 1332 waivers help states design healthcare systems that best fit their needs and escape the rigidity of one-size-fits-all, top-down federal healthcare. 

What is Section 1332? Obamacare’s Section 1332 established a waiver process for states to opt out of some of Obamacare’s most stringent and onerous provisions. This provision was designed to allow states the flexibility to experiment with healthcare approaches to best serve their residents. In 2015, Obama issued guidance that severely limited the ability of states to obtain these waivers. 

What did Trump’s guidance on Section 1332 do? In October 2018, Trump rescinded Obama’s 2015 guidance, empowering states with flexibility to work around Obamacare’s most burdensome mandates to make healthcare more affordable. Under current law, states can ask the Department of Health and Human Services for Section 1332 waivers to provide residents with greater healthcare options. 

How do states qualify for a waiver? The Trump administration has outlined two criteria for states to obtain a 1332 waiver: the state’s proposal must not increase deficits, and it must match the quality, costs, and coverage of the existing healthcare system. 

Why are Section 1332 waivers needed? Obamacare dramatically limited patient choice and forced Americans to purchase expensive, unaffordable healthcare plans. Over the past five years, average family premiums have increased by $742 a month, and narrow networks have increased from 54 percent in 2015 to 72 percent in 2019. 

Short of repealing Obamacare in its entirety, Section 1332 waivers are one of the only tools that have proven to lower healthcare premiums. Every state that has obtained a Section 1332 waiver has seen Obamacare premiums decrease. HHS approved 7 states for a waiver in 2019 – Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin. 

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Doug Badger, Obamacare premiums in these states decreased by 7.5 percent between 2018 and 2019. In non-waiver states, premiums rose by 3.1 percent. 

A bipartisan set of states are pursuing Section 1332 waivers for 2020. Badger estimated that Obamacare premiums will decrease in these states as well. See below: 

                                      Source: Doug Badger, Heritage Foundation

Democrats have consistently attacked and undermined the Trump healthcare agenda since day one of his presidency. Instead of repealing one of the few avenues that states have to promote innovation and competition in their healthcare systems, we should support legislation that enacts more flexibility, not less.

With Warner’s resolution to nullfy Trump’s Section 1332 guidance, the left reaffirms its support for rising healthcare premiums and the failed Obamacare structure.