Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said in a statement this evening that he hope President Obama will take a “hard look” at the proposal of some Senate Democrats to delay the individual mandate.
Pryor faces a tough re-election challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who’s running with the full backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“I read Senator Shaheen’s letter today and support the common sense idea to extend the date for open enrollment. I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up,” Pryor said.
“In addition, the Administration should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can’t sign up in time,” he added. “We all want to see the law work, and I hope the Administration will take a hard look at this reasonable suggestion.”
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen sent President Obama a letter on Tuesday noting that “allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.”
“I am concerned about the problems that people are experiencing with the Affordable Care Act’s website, healthcare.gov. As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans. I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date,” she wrote. “Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. ”
“…Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced. If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney brushed off Shaheen’s plea at today’s press briefing, saying people can apply by mail, over the phone or in person if the website doesn’t work.
“What I can tell you is that today Americans have access to affordable coverage, today. And that was true on October 1st. They can enroll in four ways. And we are working on the problems that are real and significant and unacceptable that exist in one of those avenues to enrolling, on the website,” Carney said.
“We’re going to, you know, tackle this problem every day. You know, we’re going to run this play and, you know, we’re going to get three yards. And we’re going to keep running it and we’re going to keep making progress.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that will be holding an Obamacare hearing tomorrow, said the problems should be watched “carefully.”
“If the problems continue, I think the White House and all of us ought to assess whether we ought to extend that deadline for the mandate, but I think that my expectation is that the problems are going to be resolved sooner, partly because we’re all very anxious, Democrats and Republicans, to make sure that the door is open and that people can actually sign up,” Schakowsky said on MSNBC today.
“But I have to tell you that I agree with the president and what Jay Carney said. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, that this is really big when it — you say people don’t have to worry any longer about pre-existing conditions, and I’m getting letters from people who actually did make it through and say Obamacare is going to save my life.”