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The Obamacare Fix-It Frenzy: Congress Seizes on Rollout Flop

From Dems to GOPs, new bills address the cancellation of plans to the individual mandate and administration deadlines.

Bill Straub


November 6, 2013 - 1:34 pm

WASHINGTON – The disastrous launch of the Obamacare website has resulted in a stream of legislation to address some of the healthcare reform law’s perceived shortcomings – and not all of the bills are coming from Republicans.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are considering delaying the implementation of some pieces of the new law, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. Others are looking to alter some provisions to fulfill promises that were offered to the public before the law passed through Congress.

The Republican-led House already has voted at least 40 times to repeal the law. The new bills are limited to correcting what are considered deficiencies.

“It’s time for Washington Democrats to work with Republicans to start working for their constituents — instead of thinking that their first priority is to protect the president and his namesake legislation,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La), who plans to run for a third six-year term in 2014, has offered legislation that will permit consumers to retain the health insurance they carried prior to the adoption of Obamacare if they so desire.

During the lead-up to the law’s passage, President Obama repeatedly said those satisfied with their health insurance plan would not be negatively impacted by healthcare reform – they could keep their plan. That has not proved to be the case as thousands have complained that they have received letters from their insurance companies canceling their policies as a result of the new law.

Those policies are being voided, the White House explained, because they fail to meet the minimum coverage standards established under the Affordable Care Act and better insurance options will be made available. But the rationale has not proved suitable for some who say they now may have to pay higher premiums for options they don’t want. And the process is being made even more difficult as a result of “glitches” related to, the online marketplace intended to permit consumers to compare and purchase competing healthcare plans.

“One of the important components of that bill that many of us talked about was the fact that if someone had individual insurance on the market, they could keep it,” Landrieu said. “What is happening now, unfortunately, because of the grandfather provision in the Affordable Care Act, in my view…it was not written as tightly as it should have been, as clearly as it should have been.”

Landrieu said her legislation, the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act, clarifies the language “so that it will clearly say that if a person has an insurance plan they like, if it is what they want and can afford, they can keep it.” Should the bill pass, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, hasn’t indicated he will call it up, five million to seven million people expected to receive cancellation notices will be able to retain their old policies.

“We said to people that if they have insurance they like, they can keep it,” Landrieu said. “We didn’t say that if they have insurance they like that doesn’t meet the standards or that meets the minimum standards, they can keep it. We said, and the president said over and over, that if people have insurance and they like the insurance they have, they can keep it.”

The legislation, Landrieu said, is not intended to undermine Obamacare – “it is to strengthen it and to keep our promise to the millions of Americans.”

Thus far, Landrieu has attracted only one co-sponsor – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Republicans are unlikely to hop on board since Landrieu is in a targeted race next year and they don’t want to do anything to help her effort.

That leads to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who intends to file similar legislation, the If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It Act, with 37 Republican cosponsors that will grandfather in existing policies and void many of the coverage requirements found in the Obamacare law.

“The president said over and over that if Americans liked their insurance plans they could keep them,” Johnson said. “We now know this is not true. More than two million people have been told that the coverage they chose is no longer available. This is wrong. The president made a commitment to the American people. His own administration forecasts that 40 to 67 percent of people with individual policies will not, in fact, get to keep their plans. That’s unacceptable.”

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is offering companion legislation in the House.

“The President repeatedly guaranteed Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,’” DeSantis said. “Now that millions of Americans are seeing their policies canceled due to Obamacare, it is clear that this was a reckless deception designed to facilitate the law’s passage against the will of the people.”

Other lawmakers are offering proposals postponing the implementation of some of the law’s key provisions because of the ongoing wrestling match to fix

Under the Affordable Care Act, every American is required to obtain health insurance coverage by March 31, 2014, or face a penalty when they utilize medical services. was created to provide consumers with a side-by-side comparison of various policies, offer information on costs and permit those seeking coverage to apply. But the site has been plagued with problems like an inability to create an account or log in. Some consumers have received confusing error messages or have had to wait for slow page loads or forms that failed to respond in a timely fashion.

Those problems have foiled some from obtaining the required coverage, leading some lawmakers to seek a delay in implementing the Jan. 1 deadline.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was one of the first out of the gate, offering the Obamacare Choice Act which delays the health insurance deadline for a year, until Jan. 1, 2015.

“This bill simply suspends the tax if you do not sign up,” Barton said. “All of us up here have voted to repeal it. We don’t like it. But we’re going to take a step back and let it go into place, but give people the option whether to enroll.”

Barton isn’t alone. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) is offering the Fairness in Failed Federal Exchange Act, which exempts individuals from paying the Obamacare noncompliance fine if they attest that they’ve been unable to enroll in an exchange as a result of technical problems.

Ellmers said she wanted to “provide a way out of this mess and offer some sanity to the pathetic rollout of this terrible law.”

“The American people deserve a reprieve from the failures of the Obama administration and should not be penalized because the White House can’t build a functioning website,” Ellmers said.

Along those same lines, Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) is offering the Health Care Access Fairness and Penalty Delay Act, which would give consumers 90 days to enroll in a healthcare plan after the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services certifies that the website is fully operational.

“I am angry that this website is not functioning – and until it is completely fixed, it is simply unfair to threaten people with fines,” Barber said.

The Senate is kicking ideas around about delaying the deadline. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has a bill that would delay the individual mandate until the Obamacare exchange website and all its enrollment processes have been fixed and are certified to be fully functional. Once that certification takes place, Americans would have an additional six months before being subject to taxes and penalties. Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) has filed companion legislation in the House.

“It is unacceptable that Americans will soon be forced to pay a fine for not purchasing insurance when the very websites they are supposed to use for purchasing it have been rendered useless from numerous glitches and technical errors,” Rubio said. “Americans already have too many financial burdens for Washington to go adding another useless and unjust tax, especially when that tax punishes the American people for the government’s own errors. I believe Obamacare must eventually be entirely repealed and replaced, but until that becomes possible we must continue to focus on protecting Americans from the law’s ongoing problems.”

Some Democrats are equally sympathetic to extending the deadline. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has sent a letter to the White House, signed by 10 Democrats, seeking an extension of the March 31 deadline. And Manchin is working with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on legislation that would extend the deadline although the details have not been firmed up.

Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

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All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Our complaints about obamacare are valid, but we need to address a way to end obamacare. Since this law was passed entirely by Democrats, we can’t trust them to vote against the law. The mid-term election in November 2014 is the next chance we have to repeal obamacare. We need to vote for Republicans who are on record as being willing to vote for repeal as many times as it takes. If we have enough support to get a veto-proof Congress we can eliminate this law no matter what Obama wants. At minimum we can defund it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It isn't just the web site that is broken,

How many have received notices that they are cancelled, how many more are going to get cancellation notices?

And why with this disaster are we talking about delaying it, will the people not lose their coverages down the line, unless this is removed.

And stop with this nonsense about it is a signature plan, and that Americans should accept disaster and failure because an affirmative action hire wanted something.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Attention: The "health fix" is in! Sebelius wins!
Obama and ACA have been "fixed" with "metrics!" Waving the "magic wand!"
Now that Sibelius has been skewered, this is Obamacare’s new “metric!” Watch out for flimflammery on a scale never seen before.
About half the states are at least partially running their own exchanges with 14 of those fully divorced from the federal website. Are these exchanges accomplishing the goals for which they were created? Yep! With "metrics!"
Most of these exchanges will periodically release data related to each exchange’s operation. Because of “layering,” the challenge is to separate the “real” numbers from the “unreal!” Smoke and mirrors appears out of nowhere.
1)Site Visits: Site visits isn't a very useful statistic. Especially with the high profile of these state exchanges. Many people visit them, having no intention of purchasing insurance. So the number of visitors to an exchange site doesn't accurately reflect numbers of people interested in purchasing an insurance policy through any one of these exchanges.
2)Enrollment Applications: Other "metrics" may be a little more revealing but still fall short of telling the "real" story. Enrollment applications started and applications completed are far more useful than site visits. Remember: there are still many people who go through the application process as an academic exercise or simply to satisfy their curiosity, ultimately giving up.
3)Insurance Plan Selection: Another number that may be released is users who have selected a plan. This step is at least one short of enrolling in a plan and purchasing insurance. This definitely overstates numbers of people who have enrolled through the exchange...very careful on this one.
4)Confirmed Enrollees: The most meaningful "metric" is number of enrollees. Even when that number is available, more digging may be required to find out the "real" whole story.
In order for state run health care exchanges achieving their goals, a certain number of people must purchase policies from listed providers offering them on the exchange. So it's necessary to: a)separate the number of people who have enrolled in Medicaid from, b)the overall number. Caution: Medicaid enrollees do not actually purchase insurance through the exchange but participate in government-run Medicaid plan.
Some states release these numbers much more frequently than others – some do not release enrollment figures (Item #4) at all! These, provide these numbers at the end of open enrollment period. One source to obtain enrollment information is it compiles publicly-available data from media reports and from exchanges themselves.
There are four other areas now being “rolled out” to further: 1)defend, 2) deflect and 3) disinform all Americans about Obamacare’s true “transparency!”
1)Accessible Documents

2)State Legislation And Regulations

3)The Exchange on Social Media

4)Advertising and Outreach Campaigns
A bit long, but worth the time to understand what’s happening with Obamacare and it’s “success!” Pray. Amen. God Bless America. Join a Tea Party, urgently and fight to repeal this Obamanation. Obamacare remains the "train wreak" it originally was designed to be. Sibelius has merely "layered" over "metrics" to confuse and disinform. It will collapse...and "single payer" will reign supreme.
( Michael Chamberlain 11/07/13)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Those of us with networking or telecom experience understand a concept called 'peak hour.' You can have a month with 3000 occurrences, which sounds like one hundred events per day, or about one every 15 minutes. Not much load, if that's the case. The issue is that the distribution is seldom random, and the peak hour may contain 100 times the average load.

How does this pertain to Ocare? Assume the website is actually healed by Nov 30, and further assume that a whole million people get their applications in before that time. To keep your coverage in force continuously, you must apply by Dec 15 to have it take effect. That leaves probably 6 miillion applications to go in over two weeks. Given that most will wait until the last minute, I think its fair to assume that 3 million will wait until the last 3 days. That averages almost 42,000 per hour, which is orders of magnitude beyond demonstrated capacity, To make it vastly worse, it is safe to say that the peak hour will be between 15 and 40 times as busy. That's between 625,000 and 1,667,000 per hour.

What are the chances that the system can handle over 400 transactions per second? Zip, Zero, Nada.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is not "just the website". The application processing code is screwed up due to all the requirement changes. Plus the back end interfacing and data validation between all the systems will be a mess also. So no it won't be "fixed" by the end of November, nor December either.

Beyond that -- the ObeyMe administration wrote the regulations to subvert the law on purpose BECAUSE the law itself requires get people off their current plans so they can be soaked to support (subsidize) all the Democrat constituency groups. If in fact new legislation is written to allow people to keep their plans then it will cause ObeyMe care to simply fail.

Of course by now the only people who will be saved will be people working for large employers (1 year deferral of employer mandate). But they won't be "saved" much because the insurance companies are already adjusting their plans to be in compliance so employees are going to see their premiums and deductibles get cranked anyway when the plans are issued later this month and in early December.

Finally, buried in the guts of the ObeyMe care legislation is voter registration that does no validation for legal citizen status -- all those navigators hired from Acorn and other Leftist groups are set to use the healthcare process as cover so they can issue voter registration cards to Democrat targeted illegal aliens. Yes really.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
None of the ideas to "keep present coverage" or "delay the individual mandate" are viable. The system as designed absolutely needs at least 2.7 million healthy young enrollees paying high premiums to subsidize the new Medicaid enrollees and the sicker buyers of plans on the exchanges. That's Obama's own estimate, so it is probably too low, but certainly the system will drown in red ink from the beginning without at least that many.

So when they say "delay is not an option," they are for once telling the absolute truth. The only realistic alternative is repeal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You may be an Obama supporter, but are you really willing to support others who will be given your tax money to provide them with health insurance? Your rates go up to support them and your annual deductible amount goes up, too. This isn’t for a single year, but will go on forever if obamacare is not repealed. Since the Democrats will not join the effort, join with us in voting Republican to get enough people in office who want to repeal the law. Vote your pocketbook, not some ideology you have accepted. Remember, it’s your money. This situation is hardly different from being assigned to support an illegal alien.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Both parties are loaded with big gov statist. They ALL want this to survive, for the power and control.

Insinuating that this anti-capitalistic POS can be "fixed" is asinine squared.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Now is the time for Republicans to demand absolute repeal. If they go along with changing anything at all they will be blamed for whatever evil remains. When your enemies are running low on ammo you don't send them a care package containing bullets.

Show no mercy and twist the knife.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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