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Midterm Elections Overturn Political Landscape

U.S. House flip to Democrats ends ACA repeal, raises new roadblocks to deregulation.
  • Frank Klimko
  • December 2018
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The Democratic takeover of the U.S. House will likely end Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but Democrats will probably attempt to derail the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda that has largely benefited the insurance industry, market observers said.

With some races still uncalled in early November, House Democrats have already passed the threshold for a majority by winning 219 seats so far, grabbing control of a chamber they haven't held since 2010. Projections show they could obtain as many as 234 seats.

Senate Republicans held onto control of that chamber, adding at least three seats there.

However, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., prevailed in a tight race with Montana Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale Jr., a Republican.

The end of one-party rule in Washington D.C. overturns the political landscape and erects new challenges for the industry in pushing for its top priorities—like reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“With a split Congress, we almost certainly will get no significant financial services legislation,” Ian Katz, director of Capital Alpha Partners, said in a research note.

“A Democratic House can slow down the regulators. The time required to prepare (for congressional hearings) is underappreciated.

“The regulators are thinly staffed near the top, so having to respond to antagonistic lawmakers will slow down their deregulatory work,” he said.

An ACA appeal is now off the table, said Timothy Jost, emeritus professor, Washington and Lee University School of Law. “There possibly could be some stabilization measures, but the path for this will be harder in the Senate,” he said.

House Democrats will probably push for investigations into Trump administration efforts to undermine the ACA, he said. House Democrats questioned a decision by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to reduce outreach and advertising for ACA open enrollment.

“And yes, there will be endless oversight hearings,” he said. “This will possibly put the administration into more of a defensive mode, less likely to issue regulations or guidance undermining the ACA.”

Such investigations could spread beyond the ACA and could hamstring efforts to get bills passed, said Nat Wienecke, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America senior vice president, federal government relations.

Frank Klimko is Washington correspondent, BestWeek. He can be reached at frank.klimko@ambest.com.


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