Frustrated with the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the Democratic coalition is beginning to crack slightly on the Affordable Care Act.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a frequent critic of the health care law, is preparing to introduce legislation that would delay Obamacare’s individual mandate by a year. Other Senate Democrats are going to push for an extension in open enrollment in exchanges. And House Democrats are openly venting their frustrations.
Manchin appeared on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” Wednesday night to discuss his plan, and he said there that he’d be open to working with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“I came here to fix things,” Manchin said. “Affordable health care was never meant to be, if you’ve got insurance now you’re going to have to buy insurance that’s more costly and not as good. That has to be fixed.”
Manchin said he wouldn’t attach his name to Rubio’s legislation, which would delay the mandate’s penalties until six months after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) certifies that the online exchanges are functional.
Manchin’s willingness to look at tweaks to the law is nothing new. He said in September that 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.
In fact, if there was any senator Democrats were worried about breaking off from the caucus during the debates, it was Manchin. He told Bill O’Reilly that he thinks he can get the votes for his plan, but no other Democrats have come out publicly in support.
Shaheen’s proposal, however, is something that could get significant Democratic support. 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.
“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 in a letter to the White House on Tuesday.
“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.”
House Democrats, too, began openly expressing their frustration with the rollout on Wednesday. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the problems are fixable and said to “just fix it.” She is working to keep her troops in line, but there’s only so much time to do that while members get angsty.
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) told reporters Wednesday that heads should roll and people should be fired because of the horrendous rollout. He also called on Obama to “man up” and explain to Americans who’s responsible for the mess. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Gene Green (D-Texas) said the administration should start looking at delays if the website problems persist. Even the most progressive members of the House are starting to realise the urgency.
“As the days go by, the President has to know that this problem must be fixed,” Rep. Keith Ellison (R-Minn.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Business Insider in an interview Tuesday.
“Hopefully a year from now, we’re going to be talking about, ‘Remember how bad the rollout was? Man, I’m glad those days are over.'”
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