Senate Democrats Bring Worries Over Obamacare to White House

US President Barack Obama speaks about the healthcare reform laws, known as Obamacare, at an Organizing for Action event in Washington, DC, November 4, 2013.  
National Journal
Michael Catalin
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Michael Catalin
Nov. 6, 2013, 1:25 p.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats fa­cing reelec­tion in 2014 car­ried their con­cerns over the rol­lout of the Af­ford­able Care Act to the White House on Wed­nes­day for a private meet­ing with Pres­id­ent Obama, with some voicing poin­ted frus­tra­tion at the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts.

“I am very frus­trated with the rol­lout of the ex­changes,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon in a state­ment. “The dys­func­tion and delays are un­ac­cept­able. After meet­ing with the pres­id­ent today, I re­main deeply con­vinced that this is a ‘show-me’ mo­ment.”

Des­pite what Sen. Chris­toph­er Coons, D-Del., called a “con­struct­ive” meet­ing, the vis­it un­der­scores just how much worry there is among Sen­ate Demo­crats.

“The rol­lout of Health­Care.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the con­cerns of Col­oradans dir­ectly with the pres­id­ent,” said Sen. Mark Ud­all of Col­or­ado in a state­ment. “Con­sumers should have the time they need to shop for a plan and en­roll after the wide­spread prob­lems with the web­site are fixed.”

Six­teen Demo­crats at­ten­ded the meet­ing, in­clud­ing Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mi­chael Ben­net of Col­or­ado. Ben­net later traveled with the pres­id­ent to a DSCC fun­draiser in Texas.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Obama told sen­at­ors he shared their com­mit­ment to make sure people who want to en­roll for in­sur­ance through mar­ket­places would be able to do so, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the White House.

“I also told the pres­id­ent that, for the Af­ford­able Care Act to suc­ceed, con­sumers need to be con­fid­ent their per­son­al in­form­a­tion is se­cure,” Ud­all said. “We need to do everything in our power to pro­tect the on­line mar­ket­place from hack­ers and cy­ber­at­tacks.”

The pres­id­ent told sen­at­ors that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing to pro­tect con­sumers’ pri­vacy and se­cur­ity, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

“The pres­id­ent was very en­gaged, very re­spons­ive, listened in­tently to the con­cerns ex­pressed by many of the mem­bers and had his whole team there—rel­ev­ant team there,” Coons said dur­ing a brief in­ter­view after the meet­ing.

Asked wheth­er it was the pres­id­ent or the sen­at­ors who called the meet­ing, Coons sug­ges­ted both sides had dis­cussed the idea.

“I think there were a num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions between sen­at­ors con­cerned about their con­stitu­ents’ dif­fi­cult or frus­trat­ing ex­per­i­ences with the Af­ford­able Care Act web­site and the White House,” he said.

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