A bipartisan pair of senators on Thursday introduced legislation that would to delay the Obamacare provision requiring virtually everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine.
The bill delaying the individual mandate is co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and comes after weeks of problems with the law's health care exchange website, healthcare.gov.
Republicans have long been demanding that the law be delayed or modified, but a number of red-state Democrats, including those facing re-election next year, have joined in those calls since problems with the web site began as soon as it opened Oct. 1.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., this week introduced legislation that would allow people to maintain their current health care coverage — even if it doesn't meet Obamacare standards — as long as it was purchased before the health care reforms were signed into law. Millions of Americans have been receiving cancelation notices from insurance companies because their existing plans didn't meet Obamacare mandates.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has also called for changes in the law but has not offered specific legislation.
Democrats and Republicans have sought to delay the individual mandate, or to extend the enrollment period, because healthcare.gov has been plagued by glitches from the start and is now being overhauled, making it harder for people to sign up. Individuals who fail to sign up face a $95 fine or a tax on 1 precent of their income, whichever is larger.
“Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, there have been many identifiable problems exposed in the law that need to be addressed,” Manchin said in a statement. “We've worked through a few of these issues, but our job in Congress is far from over. We need to start working together to fix this law and make it work so that all Americans have access to affordable and reliable health care coverage."
President Obama last summer granted large businesses an extra year to meet the law's employer mandate, which requires them to provide employees with health insurance plans or pay a fine.
"If a delay is good enough for businesses, it should be good enough for all Americans,” Kirk said.
Manchin and Landrieu don't expect the Senate's Democratic leaders to take up their legislation. The administration said delays are not needed because it will have the site's myriad glitches fixed by Nov. 30, giving people plenty of time to sign up.
"I think at this point once this website is up and running, we are going to see a lot of change in this whole debate and this whole issue," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told the Washington Examiner.
The Republican House next week will vote on a measure that would allow people who already buy their own insurance to keep their current plans even if they don't meet stricter Obamacare standards. The "Keep Your Health Care Plan Act of 2013" will likely attract Democratic support and increase political pressure on Obama to delay or modify the law.