AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Little more than a week after millions of consumers received health care cancellation notices, lawmakers in both parties are pushing legislation to redeem President Barack Obama’s long-ago pledge that anyone liking their coverage will be allowed to keep it under the nation’s controversial new law.
The result is a stern new challenge for the White House as it struggles to fix website woes for the signup portal for those seeking to enroll under the law, and simultaneously copes with angry consumers who rightly or wrongly blame “Obamacare” for cancellation letters mailed by insurers.
Democratic officials said top administration aides got a close-up view of the cancellation controversy last week, when Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said at a closed-door meeting of the party’s rank and file that his son had received notice his coverage was being terminated.
In response, these officials said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough referred to a speech Obama had made earlier in the week saying some of those losing coverage would qualify under Medicaid, some would receive federal subsidies for individual coverage, and others would have options in the so-called exchanges the law set up to allow individuals to shop for insurance. Donnelly’s office declined several requests for comment. The officials who described the incident did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss a private meeting.
In the Republican-controlled House, officials say a vote is likely as early as next week on a bill to let insurors continue selling any individual policies that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2013, even if they provide coverage deemed insufficient under Obamacare.
The measure, drafted by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and backed by roughly 100 fellow Republicans, would remain in effect throughout 2014, after which the issue would presumably be reviewed.
“Despite the president’s repeated promise of ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it,’ many Americans are now learning the sad reality that their current plan will no longer exist beginning on January 1,” Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement when he announced his legislation last week.
“This legislation is about providing folks the peace of mind that they will be allowed to keep their current coverage if they so choose.”
While Upton’s legislation permits insurers to sell existing coverage plans that would otherwise be banned, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is drafting legislation to go one step further by requiring it.
Aides said that under her measure, insurance companies would be obliged to continue offering existing paying customers continued coverage under any plans in effect at the end of 2013. No new consumers could enroll.
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