The majority of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives has penned legislation to prohibit Vice President Biden from enforcing an order he and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued to insurers in 2015 that requires them to offer free vaccines to almost every child covered under their insurance plans.
The Health Care Kids Vaccine Ordinance Act, introduced Tuesday by New York Rep. John Faso, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would bar the government from imposing these mandatory requirements, which would benefit all children under the age of 18 who use health insurance provided by a family member. When the bill was filed on Tuesday, it appeared to be dying in committee. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who serves on the same committee, confirmed to The Hill he had heard nothing from any of his Republican colleagues about the measure.
“I’m sorry, you wouldn’t expect them to, would you?” he said.
The order authored by Biden and Sebelius to give free flu vaccines to all children under the age of 18 began in 2015 after a joint investigation between NBC News and The Washington Post uncovered that 30 percent of children in the country had received less than one standard flu shot, the minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As such, Biden and Sebelius initially issued an order that required insurance plans to cover free flu vaccinations for every child by January 1, 2016.
The order was met with criticism from the insurance industry, with several providers issuing statements deeming it unworkable. Rep. Charlie Dent, an Pennsylvania Republican who is also a co-sponsor of the bill, confirmed to The Hill that he believes insurance companies would have to pay $6 billion to comply. By contrast, the pharmaceutical industry has estimated the cost of the flu shot will run parents approximately $45.
Progressive advocates have characterized the bill as a response to recent allegations that insurance companies are refusing to cover the recommended minimum of three flu shots — a move that advocates maintain is directly related to making more money on the sale of prescription drugs. Others have argued the industry is trying to deny coverage to children with lower incomes or to those with mental health disorders or other medical conditions to reduce their vulnerability to getting sick.