In the wake of the
disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the website where consumers can purchase health insurance, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has begun drafting a bill that would delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by a year, his office confirmed.
It’s unclear what the Manchin-sponsored legislation would contain, but the version being floated would delay the penalty for not purchasing insurance. Customers could still purchase insurance if they wish.
Manchin’s legislation would be separate from that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is planning to introduce a bill that would delay the mandate’s penalties until six months after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) certifies that the online exchanges are functional.
For Manchin, one of the staunchest Democratic critics of Obamacare, the position is not exactly new. As recently as September, he said he would support a year-long delay in the individual mandate — he just didn’t support that being part of negotiations surrounding the federal government shutdown.
But Democrats are increasingly becoming frustrated by the glitches that have plagued its rollout, and are becoming pressured to do something about it.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) became on Tuesday the first Democrat to push for a delay of sorts. She wrote a letter to the White House asking for an extension to open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act beyond March 31, 2014.
“Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll,” Shaheen wrote.
“Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, 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 penalised because of lack of coverage.”
CNN’s Dana Bash reported Wednesday that every Senate Democrat up for re-election in 2014 — there are 16 of them — is expected to support Shaheen’s proposal. Of those 16 senators, Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are the most vulnerable.
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