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House Passes Bill to Let Americans Keep Health Policies for 2014

Image: House Passes Bill to Let Americans Keep Health Policies for 2014 Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, second from left, and other members leave after the House on Nov. 15 voted to let insurance companies sell individual health coverage to all comers, even if it falls short of the required standards in Obamacare.

Friday, 15 Nov 2013 02:16 PM

The Republican-led U.S. House passed legislation that lets insurers sell for another year health policies that don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Today’s 261-157 vote, with the backing of about 39 Democrats, follows by a day President Barack Obama’s proposal of a one-year reprieve for Americans whose health policies have been canceled. Obama’s announcement sought to limit what could have been more Democratic votes for the Republican bill.

White House officials said Obama would veto the measure from Michigan Republican Fred Upton, saying it was intended to “sabotage” the president’s signature health-care law. House Democratic leaders said the bill is the Republicans’ 46th attempt to curtail the law.

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“Working families across America were counting on the president to keep his promise,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said today on the House floor before the vote. “Now, they are counting on us to ease some of the pain that his health-care law has brought them.”

House Speaker John Boehner again slammed Obama, saying the vote was the result of his broken promises.

“The president broke his word, had a chance to fix the problem, and only did more damage to his credibility. Today, the House made a big, bipartisan statement about the need to make things right," Boehner said in a statement. "The Keep Your Health Plan Act represents an important step toward providing relief to those who have lost their plans and face much higher premiums, but the real solution is to scrap the president’s fundamentally-flawed health care law and focus on effective, patient-centered reforms that will protect all Americans from this train wreck.”

Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee yesterday predicted at most 20 to 25 colleagues would back the Republican measure to let Americans keep their plans, after Obama proposed an administrative fix to allow insurers to sell health policies for an additional year.

The Republican bill won’t advance in the Democratic-led Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has to decide whether to allow a vote on a proposal by Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat facing re-election in 2014.

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Landrieu’s measure would let individuals keep their policies as long as they’re current on premium payments. The bill would require insurance companies to continue offering indefinitely all existing plans with an explanation as to how their policy doesn’t meet the minimum coverage standards under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Upton’s measure would let insurers sell the plans that don’t meet the health law’s minimum standards to new enrollees through the end of 2014.

Senate votes on Landrieu’s bill aren’t imminent. A top Democratic aide said scheduling them now would only guarantee public attention on flaws in the health law and intraparty feuding over whether and how to fix them.

Obama’s acceptance of responsibility for the law’s troubled rollout and his step to blunt policy cancellations fell short of quelling the political crisis engulfing him and his party tied to the increasingly unpopular law.

Some Democrats running for re-election in 2014, particularly those in the Senate, are continuing to push for changes in the law.

House Democrats today offered a more limited version of Landrieu’s proposal in a procedural move that didn’t succeed. It would have allowed a one-year continuation of policies that don’t meet the health law’s standards only for enrollees who currently have such plans.

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