The House voted Tuesday to create a new exemption under Obamacare that members of both parties said is needed to avoid job losses in the U.S. health insurance industry.
Members passed the Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act, which would exempt expatriate health insurance plans from Obamacare’s rules. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed that Obamacare would impose tough new rules on companies that provide these plans to those working outside their home country, which would make those companies less competitive with overseas insurance providers.
House Republicans said failure to change the law would lead to an estimated loss of 1,200 U.S. jobs in the industry.
“Will we allow American companies to offer expatriate plans, or will we force the offshoring of these plans?” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in support of the bill Tuesday. “Will we support employment in America, or stimulate employment overseas?”
The legislation is the latest example of how Republicans and Democrats have been able to work together to moderate Obamacare over the last few years, even as the two parties continue to fight over whether the law should be repealed entirely. Some Republicans have admitted that a full repeal is unlikely with President Obama in the White House, but GOP leaders have said in the meantime that they would do all they can to mitigate the law’s impact on jobs with smaller bills.
While it may not make all Republicans happy, most have supported the “tweak” strategy. Today, all but 16 Republicans voted for the expatriate health bill, and they were joined by 60 Democrats. The bill passed 268-150.
Members of both parties said they worked together over the last few weeks to create a more acceptable bill. When the bill was called up earlier this month, it failed when not enough Democrats supported it.
This time around, it was changed to say expatriate health plans can only be exempt if they offer comprehensive coverage, and are only given to people working outside their home country for six months or more. Democrats had feared that earlier language could create a loophole that would allow sub-standard plans to be offered to people who are working overseas for just a short time.
Despite these changes, not all Democrats were happy. House Ways & Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said the bill could be used to undermine health standards for non-U.S. workers who are legally working in the United States.
The White House also issued a statement Tuesday saying it does not support the bill. The White House statement said the legislation, H.R. 4414, would “reduce consumer protections and create even more loopholes in the tax code.”
But the statement did not say specifically that President Obama would veto the bill, which is usually seen as a sign that the bill has a chance of becoming law. As a next step, Senate Democrats will have to decide if they will consider the measure.