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Obamacare fix does not satisfy jittery Democrats

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Senate,House of Representatives,Democratic Party,Health Care,PennAve,Healthcare.gov

Not good enough.

That's the verdict from jittery House and Senate Democrats on the administrative fix President Obama proposed for his new health care law, which since its Oct. 1 kick off has led to the cancellation of millions of existing insurance plans that Obama claimed people would be allowed to keep.

Obama's proposed fix would allow insurers to reinstate for a year the policies they canceled because they didn't meet Obamacare's new stricter standards. Obama, who has resisted Republican efforts to alter his signature legislative achievement, proposed the fix after Congressional Democrats focused on their 2014 re-election campaigns started to propose changes of their own to the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election run next year and who has already proposed a similar reinstatement of the canceled policies, said Congress may have to go beyond what Obama proposes to ensure that people can keep the insurance as Obama and Democrats repeatedly promised them.

More than 5 million people have received cancellation notices from insurers who say their policies do not meet the requirements of the new health care law. Obama's proposal would permit insurers to continue to offer the old plans for the next year, but would not require them to do so.

Shortly after Obama announced a fix, a seventh Democrat, Sen. Joe Donnelly, of Indiana, signed on to Landrieu's "Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act."

"There are bills like mine and others that really want to find a way to fix this and to keep the promise," Landrieu said Thursday after meeting with White House officials.

Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who are all up for re-election next year, said Obama's proposal fell short. They want a two-year extension for cancelled policies.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Obama proposed "very constructive changes" for a law whose rollout was so rocky that it led to far more insurance cancellations than new enrollments in Obamacare's insurance exchanges.

"The current state of the system is absolutely unacceptable," Blumenthal said. "This is a start."

Senate Democrats were not fully satisfied with Obama's solution because they fear insurers will not re-offer the old plans, he said.

"I think there is a lot of support for additional changes that require legislation," Blumenthal said.

The Republican-led House on Friday will vote on a measure that would allow insurance companies to offer the cancelled plans not just to existing customers but new ones, too.

The Obama administration and Democratic leaders oppose the GOP legislation because they believe it would undermine the rest of the health care law by depriving the newly created insurance exchanges of younger, healthier enrollees.

House Democrats stopped short of fully endorsing the president's proposal.

They'll offer their own alternative to the GOP bill that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "is complimentary to what the president has done."

Sen. Jim Moran, D-Va., said he was not confident Obama's fix would rescue Democrats from political peril in next year's mid-term elections.

But it's something, Moran said, "to get us through this week."

Moran, referring to the glitches and security problems that plague the healthcare.gov website, said Democrats are not "going to walk the plank on a situation that is irreparable."

Moran said he expects significant numbers of Democrats to back the Republican bill on Friday though the numbers will be fewer than if Obama had not announced his own fix.

"It's a vote of confidence, or no confidence, in the Affordable Care Act's ability to be implemented in a timely and effective fashion," Moran said of the House vote on the GOP bill.

All House Democrats will back the Pelosi alternative, he predicted.

"We express ourselves legislatively," Moran said, adding a veiled reference to Obama's 50-minute press conference announcing his administration's solution to fix the law. "We don't have the grandiose rhetoric other branches may have."

Congressional Correspondent Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner