The Obamacare Fix-It Frenzy: Congress Seizes on Rollout Flop
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 healthcare.com, 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.”