Problems with the Obamacare insurance exchanges website have caused some Democrats to call for changes to the president’s signature law.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is working on a bill delaying for one year the $95 penalty for those who don’t purchase health insurance, according to a Senate aide. The penalty is intended to be the enforcement mechanism behind the individual mandate. Manchin’s bill will differ from a measure coming from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a vocal Obamacare opponent, that would delay the individual mandate until six months after the Government Accountability Office certifies that HealthCare.gov is fully functional.
It’s no surprise that Manchin would support a delay in the penalty; in September, he said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast that he could back a continuing resolution that included a one-year delay of the individual mandate. “There’s no way I could not vote for it,” Manchin said at the time. “It’s very reasonable and sensible.” He later voted with Democrats to fund the government without a delay in the health care law, saying in a statement, “I do not believe we should hold our government hostage while we work through the health care law.”
Not all Democrats are asking for a delay. Another option is to extend the open-enrollment period beyond March 31, 2014, which is what Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., urged in a letter Tuesday to President Obama. She also wrote that because of the problems with the website, “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.”
An Obamacare supporter, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told reporters in his Tampa office on Wednesday that problems with the health care website are “inexcusable” and “somebody ought to get fired” over them, according to his office. But his office said that the senator “declined to place blame on any one individual, agency or company for problems with the website.”
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