VOTE LIVE: Senate kills another health care mandate

They aren’t coming back for another try. Five years after Republican senators killed a part of Barack Obama’s health care law that required large employers to provide vaccine exemptions to employees, the Senate on…

VOTE LIVE: Senate kills another health care mandate

They aren’t coming back for another try.

Five years after Republican senators killed a part of Barack Obama’s health care law that required large employers to provide vaccine exemptions to employees, the Senate on Friday repealed the same mandate in another vote that was marked by a partisan partisan and widely-disagreed with.

The Senate voted 63-34 to kill a provision to repeal the requirement at a Friday session of the Senate. Democratic opponents used the final minutes of the session to denounce the move as the latest in a series of Republican-engineered partisan efforts to undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“These votes are now all about electing members of Congress, because this is real life,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “This isn’t about one political agenda.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that the mandate “might have had its place four years ago,” but added, “we’re better than that.”

The 2014 repeal of the rule, part of the ACA, was one of a series of partisan GOP efforts aimed at undermining the 2010 health care law, including efforts to block money that Obamacare supporters say helps expand the number of people who have health insurance, weaken the law’s consumer protections and extend health care options to millions of Americans who previously lacked coverage.

The vote on Friday was called to end debate on a health care overhaul plan put forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and wavering GOP senators. It was not immediately clear if the GOP health care bill will be taken up.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said there was “one constituency that should have been able to exempt itself from this requirement,” and that was small businesses, whose workers are overwhelmingly exempt from the new mandate.

Cassidy said he warned “that this was just a mere shell game to protect the most powerful and entrenched in our culture.”

But Democratic opponents slammed the repeal as a thinly veiled effort to provide for a direct repeal of the provision, once paid for by the health care industry.

The exemption was first recommended by the CDC-backed Institute of Medicine in 2012 after a joint study that found nearly one in five employees were unintentionally exposed to workplace diseases without needing vaccine or other protections. The report was finalized in 2013, prompting liberal organizations to criticize the proposal before it was even presented to the Senate.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee recently released an analysis showing that if the exemption had been in place in 2013, 2.3 million fewer people would have been vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups have also opposed the requirement.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) noted that not long ago a Democratic sponsor, then-Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), was one of the few to vote to maintain the exemptions for small businesses as part of a GOP-sought bill that dealt only with expanding coverage for childhood vaccines.

But the disease-prevention requirement has become a separate issue in the health care debate. “Who we were are long gone,” said Baldwin.

The GOP repeal would have required employers with 100 or more full-time workers to provide them with one free vaccination for kindergarten-age children and for those working 40 hours or more, two free vaccines for adults working more than 40 hours, or three free vaccines for adults working at least 30 hours a week.

It had a Republican cost-saving idea as well, requiring tax relief for employers with up to 25 employees. The repeal amendment would have allowed states to waive the requirement for certain employers and excluded others in states that have comprehensive coverage mandates for all employees, the analysis said.

On average, 21 percent of employers do not offer any coverage coverage to their employees, while 34 percent offer family coverage only and 19 percent offer individuals coverage only, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the analysis by the Democratic group found that 61 percent of firms with fewer than 25 employees covered 100 percent of their workers. The workers of 6 percent of employers did not have any coverage options, according to the study.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blasted the amendment as “one of the worst pieces of legislation” he’s seen in a long time. “These people are taking their backpacks off and yelling ‘fire’ while a million people are lined up outside.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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