Update Friday, 1:41 p.m. The House passed the Upton plan 261 to 167 with 39 Democrats voting for it along with 222 Republicans. Before the vote, 40 to 50 Democrats were estimated to break party lines. Though House Democratic leadership opposed the legislation, they did not formally whip the bill.
Update Friday, 10:45 a.m. Vermont has joined Washington State and Washington, D.C., in rejecting Obama’s administrative fix. While President Obama announced that states could allow Americans to keep their old insurance plans for another year if they wanted, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin declined the offer, choosing to stay the course with implementing the ACA’s regulations.
“Weeks ago, we made the decision to allow Vermont individuals and small businesses to extend their current plans through March 31, 2014, if they choose,” Shumlin said in a statement made along with representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care. “We remain confident in that timeframe and believe it will provide Vermonters the security and options they need as we continue to improve Vermont Health Connect and implement the federally mandated reforms.”
Washington State insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler said yesterday that he doesn’t believe the Obama proposal makes sense for his state and plans to go ahead with implementation, and the D.C. insurance commissioner said that the administrative fix “undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s D.C. Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate.” Kreidler is an elected Democrat, and both insurance commissioners hail from heavily Democratic jurisdictions.
Update Friday, 9:48 a.m. Debate has begun on the Republicans’ “keep your plan” bill, sponsored by Fred Upton, which would allow insurance companies to continue offering health-care plans that existed before the Obamacare rollout began and to offer new plans that are not compliant with the ACA. The White House has already threatened to veto the Upton bill, saying it “rolls back the progress made by allowing insurers to continue to sell new plans that deploy practices such as not offering coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men, and continuing yearly caps on the amount of care that enrollees receive.”
Some Democrats are expected to vote for the Upton bill for fear of being on record voting against a law that would allow their constituents to keep their health plans as promised. However, other Democrats, such as Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, have said they’re satisfied with Obama’s administrative fix and won’t vote for the Upton bill, as they had previously planned.
Update 6:40 p.m. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a coalition of state insurance regulators, is also skeptical of President Obama’s attempt to help extend canceled health-insurance policies, citing the disruption to insurance markets it will cause.
“The NAIC has been clear from the beginning that allowing insurers to have different rules for different policies would be detrimental to the overall market and result in higher premiums,” said NAIC president and Louisiana insurance commissioner Jim Donelon.
Donelon added the NAIC was “concerned” by Obama’s move, warning that it was “unclear how . . . the changes proposed today by the president can be put into effect,” and that changing the rules now via administrative action “creates uncertainty and may not address the underlying issues.”
Update 6:30 p.m. South Carolina will be allowing insurers to extend their policies, according to Ray Farmer, the director of the state’s Insurance Department.
“We don’t intend to . . . [enforce] federal rules that the federal government won’t even enforce,” Farmer said.
The extension could allow roughly 150,000 South Carolinians to keep their current individual health-insurance policies, but Farmer did criticize the move for adding uncertainty to a complex issue.
“Our consumers are going to be confused. Our companies are probably confused. We will attempt to talk to our carriers and bring some uniformity to the issue,” he said.
Update 6:19 p.m. Landrieu’s bill has stalled in the Senate, as many Democrats think Obama’s administrative fix is sufficient. While some Democratic senators, such as Joe Manchin and Kay Hagan, still support the Landrieu plan, a top Senate Democratic aide said that Landrieu’s bill and a similar one by Senator Mark Udall have been derailed by the president’s plan, according to the Huffington Post.
At the same time, House Democrats are pushing for a legislative fix that reinforces Obama’s executive decree, in an effort to prevent their members from defecting to the Republican bill presented by Fred Upton of Michigan. The House Democratic bill would allow insurers to bring back canceled plans and, as minority leader Nancy Pelosi said, would “complement” Obama’s administrative fix.
Update 4:43 p.m. Several Senate Democrats left the meeting with White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough earlier today still desiring more than just a “administrative fix.” In particular, senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mark Begich of Alaska, Joe Manchin or West Virginia, Kay Hagen of North Carolina, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana didn’t think the presidents decree was sufficient, and called for legislation.
Update 4:24 p.m. A seventh Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, has signed on to Mary Landrieu’s plan that would enable people to keep their previous insurance. Donnelly voiced his support even after President Obama proposed his own “administrative fix” earlier this afternoon.
Update 3:27 p.m. Washington will not offer insurance plans that would otherwise be cancelled, state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler says. After hearing Obama’s announcement of an “administrative fix,” allowing insurance companies to keep offering plans that would previously have been cancelled, Kreidler said he has “serious concerns” about how the “fix” would be implemented and worries that it will destabilize the state’s health insurance market.
“I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington,” Kreidler said. “In the interest of keeping the consumer protections, we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington.”
Update 2:36 p.m. Senator Mark Udall (D., Colo.) expressed tepid approval of Obama’s administrative fix in a press release earlier. “I am glad the White House is starting to address my concerns and those of thousands of Colorado families that received insurance cancellation notices,” Udall said. “While I would prefer that these families receive a longer extension to keep their existing insurance policies and the greater certainty my legislation provides.”
Update 2:20 p.m. Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said that there is no need for a legislative fix for Obamacare, as of yet.
Update 12:57 p.m. Despite President Obama’s announcement of an administrative fix to the failing health-care law, Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) says, that she still wants the legislation proposed by Senator Landrieu (D., La.) because it’s a permanent fix, not just a one year fix, according to Dana Bash at CNN,
Senator Todd Harkin (D., Iowa) also told reporters regarding Obama’s announced fix, “If I were the president I would not have done that.”
Update 11:01 a.m. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed a different “if you like it you can keep it” Obamacare fix just moments before President Obama was expected to announce his own plan. Pelosi supports a proposal led by representative George Miller (D., Calif.) that would require insurance companies to keep existing health plans until the Obamacare open-enrollment period ends in March. This announcement came shortly after Pelosi said that she would prefer an “administrative fix” to the much slower process of legislation.
As the Obamacare website continues to malfunction and Democrats are squirming over the blatant falsehood of the president’s repeated promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” many of them are breaking ranks, worried about their political future.
Already, six senate Democrats have committed to supporting the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act, which would enable existing customers to renew non-compliant plans indefinitely. The Senate bill, introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D., La.), is also backed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), and Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.). Landrieu, Hagan, and Pryor all face tough reelection campaigns in red states come 2014.
On Thursday morning, Democrat lawmakers and Obama administration officials will conduct a closed-door meeting to discuss concerns with the health-care law. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who announced the Thursday meeting, did not indicate whether he would bring the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act to the Senate floor.
President Obama is expected to make a speech after the meeting at 11:35 a.m. announcing a plan to allow insurance companies to keep offering existing policies that would otherwise be canceled because they don’t comply with the law’s 2014 requirements. Obama’s plan would, at least according to the administration, not require legislation and would only allow plans that currently exist to continue to be renewed for current customers in 2014.