WASHINGTON November 13, 2013– Top congressional Democrats on Sunday stood by President Obama and the flawed rollout of the government’s healthcare website, expressing confidence the problems would be fixed and the issue would not drag down the party in next year’s mid-term elections.
“I don’t think you can tell what will happen next year, but I will tell you this — Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pelosi downplayed the defection of 39 House Democrats on Friday who voted to help pass a Republican bill, opposed by the White House, to address the millions of people facing cancellation of their health insurance policies. The bill, which passed 261-157, would allow insurers to continue selling individual policies that do not meet new federal standards under the law.
The number of Democrats who defied President Obama and House Democratic leaders on the vote was about the same as those who have joined with Republicans on other bills to alter the healthcare law, Pelosi said. On one such vote in July, to delay the employer mandate in the law, 35 Democrats joined with Republicans.
“No matter how much Congresswoman Pelosi tries to spin this, this is a mess,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said on “Meet the Press.” “My constituents are very unhappy with the notices they’re receiving and higher premiums.”
Obama tried to address the problem of policy cancellations last week even as administration officials scrambled to try to get the healthcare.gov website running correctly by the end of the month. On Thursday, Obama gave insurance companies permission to renew policies that were to be canceled for not meeting the law’s new standards that require, for example, coverage for prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care.
But companies do not have to renew the policies and would need permission from state regulators to do so.
“Keep in mind, it is a suggestion. It is not a ruling, and it certainly is not a law,” Ben Nelson, chief executive of the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners, said on “Fox News Sunday.” A former Democratic senator, Nelson said insurance commissioners are concerned Obama’s proposal could disrupt the healthcare market and lead to higher premiums.
Insurance industry officials have the same concerns. They met with Obama at the White House on Friday and are working with the administration to try to address the issue of policy cancellations, said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.
“We have the same goals. We’re going to work together to try to get people into affordable coverage,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We have work to do, there is no question. But we have an interest in doing it together and working together on that.”