Democratic Support Grows for Bill to Let People Keep Insurance Plans

Sen. Jeff Merkley is the latest to sign onto Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bill.

Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in US Capitol on January 11, 2007.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
Nov. 13, 2013, 5:54 a.m.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is the latest Demo­crat to sign onto a bill from a red-state col­league that lets people keep their cur­rent health in­sur­ance policies un­der Obama­care.

Demo­crats up for reelec­tion in 2014 are in a tricky spot: They have to re­con­cile their sup­port for Obama­care while hav­ing to do more than simply ac­know­ledge that the rol­lout has been a dis­aster.

A bill from Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., ad­dresses the prob­lems that have cropped up dur­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act rol­lout and has been gain­ing polit­ic­al trac­tion in re­cent days. The bill aims to ad­dress in­di­vidu­als who have seen their health in­sur­ance plans can­celed, and yet are hav­ing prob­lems ac­cess­ing the ex­changes to buy new in­sur­ance.

Merkley, who is up for reelec­tion in 2014, has been tar­geted back home over the rol­lout of the in­sur­ance ex­changes. The Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee launched rob­ocalls against Merkley last week, ty­ing him to Pres­id­ent Obama’s claim that Amer­ic­ans could keep their plans.

“I am very frus­trated with the rol­lout of the ex­changes,” Merkley said after last week’s White House meet­ing with Sen­ate Demo­crats up for reelec­tion in 2014. “The dys­func­tion and delays are un­ac­cept­able. After meet­ing with the pres­id­ent today, I re­main deeply con­vinced that this is a ‘show-me’ mo­ment.”

Oth­er Demo­crats who have signed onto Landrieu’s bill are more pre­dict­able and come from red states where they face tough reelec­tion fights, in­clud­ing Sens. Mark Pry­or from Arkan­sas and Kay Hagan from North Car­o­lina.

Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., also signed onto the ef­fort, al­though she isn’t up for reelec­tion un­til 2018. Both Ore­gon and Cali­for­nia have state-run ex­changes, but the rol­lout hasn’t been smooth there, either; a num­ber of states have prob­lems al­low­ing people to sign up.

Obama has said he is look­ing for a “fix” when it comes to can­celed plans, but health care policy ex­perts say it’s un­likely the ad­min­is­tra­tion can do much on its own to fun­da­ment­ally ad­dress the prob­lem.

On Tues­day, former Pres­id­ent Clin­ton also said that Obama should find a way to al­low Amer­ic­ans to keep their old plans un­der Obama­care. “Even if it takes a change to the law, the pres­id­ent should hon­or the com­mit­ment the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got,” he told Ozy.com.

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