This vote was on an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would allow people to buy health insurance from providers licensed in a state other than the one in which they live.
“Current law traps Americans by only allowing them to buy health insurance in the State where they live. This is not fair, and it makes very little sense in a time when we are trying to lower the cost of health insurance. My amendment, which we call the Health Care Choice Act, will help millions of American children by allowing their parents to shop for health insurance the same way they shop for many other products: online, by mail, over the phone or in consultation with an insurance agent in their hometown,” DeMint said.
The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and expand the program’s funding by about $35 billion over the life of the bill. To offset the cost of expansion, the bill would increase the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 per pack. The SCHIP program – funded primarily through taxes on tobacco products -- helps low income families with children afford health insurance, and currently covers about 6 million kids.
Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the amendment should be defeated because it “allows insurance companies to race to the bottom, race to the State with the lowest level of standards of insurance regulation, to market and sell in any State, irrespective of what the standards would be in the other States.”
Baucus added that a bill dealing with insuring poor children also is not the proper place for a reexamination of insurance regulation issues.
By a vote of 37-62, the Senate defeated the amendment. All Democrats present voted against the amendment. Of Republicans present, 37 voted for the amendment and 12 voted against the amendment. The end result was that the measure went forward without language that would have allowed people to buy health insurance from providers licensed in another state.