On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that health insurance companies can continue offering skimpy policies that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s standards until 2016. That didn’t satisfy the health law’s GOP critics, including many who have been pushing for similar measures in Congress.
Millions of insurance plans that either didn’t offer adequate benefits or passed too many costs onto consumers relative to the ACA’s more stringent consumer protection standards were canceled last fall as the health law went into effect (although many companies also canceled policies simply because they lacked sufficient market share to be competitive). That led to a flurry of negative media coverage — including a rash of over-hyped and largely inaccurate Obamacare “horror stories” — claiming that the health law was canceling people’s insurance plans and forcing them onto pricier ones that they never wanted in the first place.
Still, the administration and lawmakers from both parties agreed that the issue needed to be addressed. President Obama gave a long, public apology to Americans who had their plans canceled before announcing the original one-year administrative fix. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike introduced a variety of “keep your plan” bills in Congress.
“More than two million people have been told that the coverage they chose is no longer available,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in a press release introducing his If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It Act in October. “This is wrong… My bill adds flexibility to the standards for policies under Obamacare and gives Americans the freedom to keep their plans if they so choose.”
Sens. John Barsasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) co-sponsored that same legislation. “This is a simple, but necessary, bill to give Americans the ability to keep their health plans if they like them,” said Heller in a statement.
On the House side, Republicans signed onto Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-MI) Keep Your Health Plan Act, arguing that the administration’s original one-year fix didn’t do enough. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) went so far as to say that the one-year extension of health plans amounted to an “administrative gimmick,” and that stronger legislation was needed to allow Americans to keep their plans (although Issa didn’t mention the fact that Upton’s bill would still allow insurers to cancel or replace consumers’ policies).
But now that the White House has taken heed and strengthened its original fix, Republicans still aren’t pleased.
“The Obama administration’s announcement today that it will continue to allow insurers to sell health care plans that don’t meet Obamacare minimum coverage requirements is not only another reminder of the President’s broken promise that you can keep your plan if you like it, but represents a desperate move to protect vulnerable Democrats in national elections later this year,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement following Wednesday’s announcement.
“When in doubt, delay. When unpopular, delay,” said Johnson on Twitter. “Yet another #ObamaCare delay. Clearly this law needs to be replaced,” tweeted Heller. Barrasso went so far as to dismiss the fix as a “political band-aid” for the “incurable injury” of Obamacare.
Issa has a similar take. “The latest delay underscores the President’s misguided fixation on political gains over the disastrous impact #ObamaCare is having,” he said through his Twitter account.