WASHINGTON Nov 13 U.S. House of Representatives
Democrats, seething over the botched startup of President Barack
Obama's healthcare law, are urging U.S. officials to swiftly
help people whose existing insurance policies are being canceled
due to Obamacare.
Democrats are facing a potentially difficult House vote on
Friday, when Republicans will hold a vote on a bill allowing
people to keep their current health insurance plans if they like
them, even if those plans do not meet the Affordable Care Act's
minimum standards for coverage.
A senior House Democratic aide said on Wednesday that during
a closed-door meeting of House Democrats and administration
officials, the lawmakers called for Obama to announce a remedy
to the canceled policies before Friday's House vote.
Several million people are facing cancellation notices
because their current plans do not comply with new requirements
in Obamacare, such as coverage for mental health treatment and
At the same time, the federal HealthCare.gov website that is
supposed to allow people to shop for alternative, affordable
policies has been plagued by glitches since its Oct. 1 launch.
The Obama administration has said the website will be
largely fixed by the end of the month.
During the more than hour-long meeting, House Democrats
registered their anger over the Obamacare problems, which they
fear will be a major political liability for the party during
the 2014 mid-term elections.
"It got heated. Don't come here telling us it (the website)
would be fixed by Nov. 30 because the whole world believes it
won't be fixed," Representative Jose Serrano of New York told
reporters as he described the conversation between his fellow
Democrats and administration officials briefing them.
Serrano and other House Democrats told reporters that there
is a discussion over whether they should offer a legislative
alternative to the Republican measure. No decisions have been
made, according to senior Democratic aides, with the vote only
two days away.
Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other
leading Democrats urged their rank-and-file to vote against the
Republican bill, saying it is merely another attempt to repeal
the Obamacare law that was passed in 2010 and is being
implemented in phases.
The Republican legislation, said Democratic Representative
Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, "could reinstate exclusions for
pre-existing conditions, they could reinstate gender rating that
could make women pay more ... this is just another way of
undoing the Affordable Health Care Act; maybe the 43rd or 44th
repeal" attempted by Republicans.
The law aims to provide health benefits to millions of
uninsured Americans. It mandates that most Americans be enrolled
for health coverage by March 31 or pay a fine.
Obama has apologized for having told Americans that under
Obamacare they would be able to keep their health insurance
policies if they liked them, only to see a flood of cancellation
notices sent out. He has promised to look at ways of fixing the
problem, but has not provided details.
Outside of legislation, there are a range of possible fixes
to allow people to temporarily keep their plans, but many are
logistically difficult, legally risky, or could undermine other
parts of the law, according to policy experts.
Many Democrats have argued that once consumers see that they
will be able to get better policies, often with subsidies to
lower costs, they will want to switch to Obamacare.
But Republicans have countered that the law is fatally
flawed and will result in higher premiums and job losses as
small businesses refuse to hire more workers because the law
would force them to participate in Obamacare if their workforce
reached a certain threshold.
The second-ranking House Republican, Majority Leader Eric
Cantor, told reporters that the bill that will be up for a vote
on Friday "simply allows insurers to make good on the
president's promise" to let people keep their insurance if they
"It's not going to fix the entire problem and it doesn't
stop Obamacare from being a train wreck. But it is a good first
step," Cantor said.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Karey Van
Hall and Tim Dobbyn)