On Friday, Nov. 16, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve what has been nicknamed the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” in a 261-157 vote. Four Republicans voted against it, but 39 Democrats voted for it. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).
Many of the Democrats who crossed the aisle and voted for the bill face tough re-election challenges next year.
The bill allows insurance companies to offer health plans that were cancelled for not meeting new requirements under ObamaCare.
Millions of Americans received cancellation letters over the past month, despite the administration’s repeated promises that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” Under the House-approved bill, consumers opting to keep their existing plans wouldn’t face any penalties enforced by Obamacare. Insurers would then be allowed to sell their minimal plans to new customers.
The passage of this bill, which President Obama said he would veto, marked the end of a bad week for the president.
On Thursday, the president apologized to the nation both for the badly managed rollout of the Affordable Care Act and for having pledged to Americans that if they preferred the health plans they had over the plans offered under the new Act, they could keep them.
Upton accused Obama of knowing that his signature law would force millions of people out of plans they liked. He said during the House debate that Obama’s promise that “if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it” would go down in history as a line forever associated with Obama.
In turn, Democrats faithful to the president argued that the legislation passed on Friday would undermine the entire national health care plan.
That prompted Democrats to argue that Upton’s bill would drastically undermine ObamaCare, since it would let people keep what they say are substandard plans, and let them avoid buying new plans under the ObamaCare exchanges.
“This one on the floor today really takes the cake, because it [would], essentially, pull the plug on the Affordable Care Act,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said this would allow a “shadow market” of old plans to undermine ObamaCare plans.
But Republicans said that the term “shadow market” just means a market that sells more affordable plans that people want.
“It’s forcing people to choose healthcare they do not want, cannot afford, and isn’t right for themselves and their families,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The legislation approved by the House is expected to face tough opposition in the Senate.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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