November 08, 2013, 11:38 am
Obama in tough spot as GOP pushes ‘Keep Your Plan’ bill (Video)
By Justin Sink
House Republicans are pouncing on President Obama’s apology for cancelled insurance plans to push him into backing legislation that would change ObamaCare.
The president on Thursday said he was “sorry” that Americans were losing their healthcare plans despite his frequent assurances that individuals with insurance could keep them.
Obama said he was seeking an administrative fix, but Republicans say they have a ready-made solution in the Keep Your Plan bill that they plan to bring up for a vote next week.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the president can’t address the problems plaguing the healthcare law through executive action alone. He said Obama should back the House bill, which would grandfather in all health insurance plans that existed as of Jan. 1, 2013.
"We are highly skeptical that there is anything the president can do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
"That’s why he should work with Congress and support bipartisan legislation that fulfills his promise and allows insurance companies to continue offering the plans that so many Americans like and can afford.”
The bill puts Obama in a tough spot.
Democrats have stood firm against major changes to the healthcare law since it was passed, fearing it would open the door to a slew of attacks Republicans designed to cripple it.
But Democratic unity is cracking amid the troubled rollout of the healthcare law.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has introduced a similar "Keep Your Plan" bill in the Senate with the support of fellow Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is facing a tough reelection race in 2014, endorsed the “Keep Your Plan” late Thursday along with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who is also up next year. Other vulnerable Democrats could follow suit.
Obama, for his part, didn’t rule out supporting the House bill when he was asked about it on Thursday.
"We're looking at a range of options," Obama said.
The White House might have to reject the House bill because of the impact it could have on ObamaCare.
The legislation could reduce the number of healthy young Americans purchasing comprehensive plans, potentially driving up costs for sicker individuals seeking insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges.
But Republicans sense they have an advantage now that Obama has conceded the healthcare law is in need of repair.
“If the president is sincerely sorry that he misled the American people, the very least he can do is support this bipartisan effort,” Boehner said in a statement Thursday night. “Otherwise, this apology doesn’t amount to anything.”
The White House has been thrown on the defensive by the fallout from the “keep your plan” promise, and has been struggling to respond as millions of Americans have received letters informing them that their plans have been dropped.
The issue dogged the president even as he traveled to New Orleans Friday for an event on infrastructure and the economy. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) told reporters on a White House conference call Thursday that he supported the Keep Your Plan bill.
Obama is clearly looking to repair the damage, and on Thursday said he’s “assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law.”
But it's unclear where the administration will go from here.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday said the administration hopes to assist people whose health insurance is canceled, but has “no specific option right now,” according to Reuters.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest similarly refused on Friday to detail what type of administrative solutions were in the works.