Udall’s Shrewd Obamacare Proposal

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

A press release from Sen. Mark Udall's office today:

Citing the concerns of Colorado families recently notified of their insurance companies' decisions to cancel health plans, Mark Udall introduced common-sense legislation today that would allow Americans in the individual insurance market to retain their current health insurance. This bill keeps faith with consumers who want the option of maintaining their current coverage and follows Udall's continued efforts to make sure the health law works better for Coloradans.

"I have repeatedly said that the Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, and it will need to be improved as it is implemented. This common-sense bill ensures the health reform law allows Coloradans to maintain insurance coverage," Udall said. "I share the concern that some health insurance companies are choosing to cancel thousands of Coloradans' plans. That's why my common-sense bill will allow Coloradans the option to keep their current coverage if they want or to purchase new plans through the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace that may better meet their health care needs."

The Continuous Coverage Act would:

Ensure that consumers have the choice to keep their current health insurance coverage — despite any cancellation notices — for a full two years through December 31, 2015.

Help smooth the transition from our current system to the newly-crafted health insurance marketplaces.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols has more coverage of Sen. Udall's proposal:

As Democrats on Capitol Hill are growing increasingly angry with the White House over problems with Obamacare — and increasingly uneasy about their individual fortunes heading into 2014 — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall Wednesday became the latest Democratic lawmaker to introduce legislation to change the beleaguered Affordable Care Act, FOX31 Denver is first to report…

“We’re protecting the stability of the insurance market in the exchange while allowing people to hold on to their current plans a little bit longer,” Joe Britton, Udall’s deputy chief of staff, told FOX31.

This proposal is being floated just ahead of a major meeting of Senate Democrats at the White House tomorrow. Democrats are aware that startup troubles with the Affordable Care Act could play hell with deadlines consumers are under. As the exchange's troubles delay signups, unease grows–especially for the 5% of policyholders in the individual and small group markets making up the vast majority of cancelations. Republicans are eagerly exploiting that unease both among those actually seeing policies canceled and, via misinformation, everyone else.

On the other hand, so-far paltry Obamacare enrollment numbers are certain to improve as the marketplace websites get fixed. What's more, nobody is counting the hundreds of thousands of consumers who have qualified for Medicaid as a success for the exchange, even though those are people without health insurance who will have it on January 1st. As these admittedly troubled startup narratives today get resolved in the coming weeks, Republicans are going to run out of ammunition to keep their shrill attacks on the new law going.

Where does that leave Udall and this proposal? That depends on how this all resolves. At the very least, he looks today like someone in search of a constructive solution, to be distinguished from Republicans who are simply trying to dismantle the entire Affordable Care Act. If these startup problems continue and a stopgap measure of this kind truly becomes necessary, Udall looks prescient. In the more likely event that the situation stabilizes, he still can claim credit for being responsive.

Above all, Democrats should have a little trust in Udall to chart the right course through a politically complicated situation. To prevail here, there's a need to acknowledge the difficulties without conceding ground to reform's intractable opponents. We believe that's what Udall is trying to do.

46 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Is this separate from Sen. Landreau's version of the proposal?

    Democrats are smart to put a proposal like this forward, especially because it counters the look-alike Republican proposal that underhandedly guts the minimum provision requirements of the ACA forever, for new plans as well as existing ones.

  2. ModeratusModeratus says:

    If you want to survive on a sinking ship, follow the rats.

    • Miss Jane says:

      Not cogent.  Seriously?  You really need to have better responses.  

    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

      The Dems own this program, warts and all.  

      • Miss Jane says:

        This government was meant to be cooperative.  Your side is not cooperative.  Quite  the opposite, really.  You own this, as well.

        • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

          Miss Jane, 
          Sorry, but no.  The Constitution does not require any specific law to be passed. You passed this law without a single shred of GOP/conservative support and over continued and sustained opposition from the same.  That this law, which no elected conservative sponsored and which all opposed, is now floundering is completely your responsibility. 

          That you cannot own up to these simple facts is very telling as to how big of a mess Obamacare currently is (let alone to how big of a mess it will be going forward).  My suggestion: start looking at GOP efforts to repeal it with a little more favor. 

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            Still hanging on to that fantasy, Elliot?

            Be careful for what you wish. If the Affordable Care Act doesn't make it, what do you think comes next? Republicans have no suggestions, and it is a certainty that we aren't going backwards. Sooo…I'm thinking the next step is single-payer. As in, Medicare for all.

            Would you like that, Elliot?

            • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

              The Dems don't have th votes to approve single payor and after this terrible rollout of their new law, I don't see them obtaining them for the foreseeable future.  . . 

              • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

                Heritage Foundation, Elliot….YOUR law. You have no alternative to sell because the ACA came from your side.

                If this plan (Romneycare on steroids) doesn't function, tell me the republican plan to replace it. Be specific.

                • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                  DC – that is funny – at the time of the ACA's passage, I was unaware that Heritage Foundation had endorsed it, lobbied for it, or even was refraining from opposing it.  

                  Come on – your efforts to spread the blame are pathetic.  This was your law.  If it succeeded (in the public's judgment), you guys got the credit, and if it failed you got the blame.  That's what all the efforts to repeal it were partially about. 

                  And guess what – in the public's perception (which is what counts given that this is politics after all) the law is failing.  Which is probably why you guys are squirming around to avoid the responsibility you undertook by passing this law over universal conservative opposition. 

                  • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

                    and you are going to answer my question and tell me what the republicans suggest as an alternative..and you are going to do it now…right?

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      Duke Cox – first rule of medicine (which the Dems at best forgot in enacting Obamacare): 

                      Primum non nocere (First, do no harm)

                      Beyond that others who are more apprised of the healthcare debate who can address what will happen next.  I'd say at a minimum that Obama is going to get held to his promise: if you like your plan, you get to keep your plan.  Even Clinton is agreeing with that very modest step now ;-)

                       

                    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

                      Beyond that others who are more apprised of the healthcare debate who can address what will happen next.

                      as I suspected.

                    • ajb says:

                      Elliot, let's get personal here for a moment.

                      I have a good job with good insurance. My wife has had a heart condition. She has also had several pre-cancerous moles removed. If I lose my job and insurance, she will never get health insurance again. 

                      That's what you want. Own it. 

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      AJB – my belief is that my wife should not have to use the travel funds she needs to visit her impoverished family in mexico to pay for you health care insurance. 

                    • ajb says:

                      My goodness. No way to polish that turd.

                  • BlueCat says:

                    Are you really that ignorant? Use the google, Elliot. ACA is almost entirely composed of ideas taken from Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks. It's common knowledge among those with a clue, though of the kind the GOTP would very much like to "disappear" Rove style and replace with an entirely created reality. And no I won't give you link. You're the one acting as if the very idea is ridiculous, obviously without checking it out.  If you want the truth you can do your own work. I don't really care if you believe it or not.

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      BC – I'm well aware that Heritage, at one point in time advocated for things that SUBSEQUENTLY became part of the Obamacare package.  That is an utter dodge of my point though.  Heritage, like the rest of conservatives, strenously opposed the ACA.  Keep digging though. 

                    • BlueCat says:

                      Oh that's priceless. How else could it use Heritage ideas except subsequently? You can't take someone else's ideas until they, you know, exist. The fact that Heritage "subsequently" opposed their own ideas when they turned up in ACA demonstrates something but not what you think it does.

                      Stop digging? Don't need to any more than you need to stop beating your wife. 

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      If you want to put down a Heritage in the poker game of not being able to go against past idea/statements, I'll raise you a Robert Byrd and some Jim Crow laws. 

                      My guess is you'll fold this point shortly. 

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      (for the historically ignorant, Robert Byrd was an ex-KKK and a prominent Dem Senator.  And the dems supported Jim Crow laws.  Of course, the Dems turned away from those in past decades, just as Heritage turned away from the mutation of its ideas that the ACA represented). 

                    • BlueCat says:

                      Wow, Elliot. This is possibly the most completely irrelevant look over there non sequitur you have yet produced. I simply made the point that of course ideas taken from sources must be subsequent to the sources producing those ideas and that my interpretation of the meaning of Heritage attacking it's own ideas when they turned up in Obama's ACA no doubt differs from yours. What any of that has to do with Byrd and Jim Crow is truly unfathomable. Byrd=Dem, Jim Crow= bad ergo just what about my points? Are you on some medication that might need adjustment?

                    • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                      Your point is what was irrelevant.  All that matters here is WHO SUPPORTED THE ACA.  You used as an excuse (paraphrased) "well, Heritage used to support some ideas that were part of the ACA, so that should count as conservatives supporting it".  It doesn't, and if you claim otherwise then the KKK, by analogy, could say that it has the Dems' blessing based on support that was withdrawn decades ago.

                  • BlueCat says:

                    I give up. You really have no conception of how logic works. None at all. That's the basis of our disagreements, Elliot, not, as you said recently, that we have different definitions of racism. You simply make no coherent logical sense and that's very confusing, and therefore deeply exasperating, to anyone who relies on logic in debating issues. Have a nice day anyway.

          • Miss Jane says:

            Elliot, you are greatly missing the point.  This is a democratic republic.  it is run through cooperation between competing interests.  Our representatives are elected to run the government.  Running it into the ground and saying it doesn't work is not what they have sworn to do. We use politics and diplomacy to achieve goals where otherwise we would devolve into civil disorder. 

            The ACA in some form or other had to be passed. The issue of healthcare in this country had to be addressed.  It does have input from conservative interests in it.  Refusing to play doesn't mean you are not responsible for the results at the end of the game. 

            This isn't about your wife visiting her family or giving "free stuff" to unworthy people.  It is about maintaining social stability and prosperity.  It is about keeping the middle class a strong and viable force in this country. Health care is now a necessary part of that.

            Abraham Lincoln said that labor creates capital, not the other way around. That is evident to any competent economist.  All democracies depend on the middle class.  A strong middle creates the environment and the people that make democracies exist.  If companies like Wal Mart and McDonald's would pay their emplyees a viable wage instead of instructing them in how to apply for public assistance, we would be a lot farther along than we are.  Talk about "free stuff",  they walk away with billions, and we pay.

            As a citizens of this country Republicans are responsible.  You can't take the ball and go home.  The game will go on, one way or another.

            If you want to be like Michael Steele,  Steve Schultz or even Chris Christie, you are going to have to up your game.  What about Hank Brown or even Joel Hefley, they were way better than this crowd.  They were willing to govern.

            http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/10/daily-chart-1

             

  3. Not Dame Edna says:

    While putting this plan forward will help Senator Udall's reelection, it will undermine the ACA. I just happened to catch a story on PBS Newshour this evening and they do a great job of explaining the successes and shortcomings of the ACA.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/government_programs/july-dec13/health_11-12.html

    • ZappateroZappatero says:

      Mark Udall is not shrewd and Democrats' congenital wimpiness, and their insatiable and mistaken urge to triangulate, will only hurt the laws beneficiaries and help the hideously cynical Republicans who are eating this up.

      The only one happier than CPols about this dumb strategy is probably the guy who thunk it up: Michael Bennet, Chairman of the DSCC.

      • DavieDavie says:

        Governing is messy business — attempting to be responsive to your contituents sometimes involves half-measures from an imperfect palette of choices.

        Democrats muddle through, while Republicans seem to bungle through.

        Despite David T's daily Knash and Wail, I'm pretty sure like the initial stumbling rollout of Social Security 75 years ago, we'll get through this.

  4. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Really good move on Udall's part. The odds are about 99% that the website will still be a disaster in 6 months. He's approaching the problem realistically instead of based on wishful thinking.

  5. DavieDavie says:

    As explained in this excellent article, the policies that are getting cancelled are the ones that the insurance companies only make money if they cancel you at the first whiff of actually having to payout benefits:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/11/obama_said_you_can_keep_your_plan_an_unwise_promise_that_the_president_was.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr:content

    Insurance cancellation sob stories have been full of picayune details about new coverage mandates for services the policyholder doesn’t want: gender reassignment surgery, for example, or maternity care for women in their 50s. But no insurer worries about being forced to offer you services that you won’t want to use. New regulations will only lead to policy cancellation if they make the policy unprofitable to offer. And in the majority of cases, that’ll mean the policy is being canceled because it nevermade financial sense for the insurer to actually pay up in the case of major illness.

    Clearing the landscape of this kind of mirage insurance and making sure that everyone has proper coverage—which, yes, may be more expensive—is a feature of the Affordable Care Act, not a bug. The White House has every reason to hold its head in shame over the shambolic state of healthcare.gov, but the wave of cancellation letters is part of Obamacare doing what it was supposed to do. There’s little to regret about these plans vanishing from the earth.

    While the optics of forcing insurance companies to continue to offer the same old plans look good, the reality is that it's not feasible.  If they can't cancel the policies once they actually have to start paying benefits, then they'll start raising the premiums through the roof.  Actually, that will push folks into the ACA-certified policies anyway, I suppose.  Many ways to skin the cat..

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      If the website was working this would be a minor issue. With the website broken, people are worried they'll have no insurance.

      • DavieDavie says:

        I believe the two main issues they are working on are streamlining some of the process rules, and the performance (and bug fixes, naturally). 

        I'm also pretty sure the deadlines will get extended to prevent the penalties from kicking in unfairly, or existing coverage from being dropped.  But hanging on to the crummy policies is definitely the worst of the options, so whether applicants sign up via computer or phone, they really should upgrade to ACA-compliant policies.

  6. reubenesp says:

    Most of the 5% will likely choose an exchange plan anyway. And the uninsured millenials are still required to sign up on an exhange, thus "protecting the stability of the insurance market in the excahnge."

  7. dwyer says:

    I am beginning to like Udall.  Maybe he is not just another Democratic pretty face.

    • James DoddJADodd says:

      This is just more kabuki theater. Let me point out a few things in no particular order of importance:

      • There is no time. Boehner has scheduled only 13 days for the House to be in session between now and the end of the year.
      • The Republicans have a competing plan. They will not allow a Democratic plan to even get to a vote. 
      • Both proposals merely allow an individual to keep their plan if their insurance ccompany will continue to offer it!  The industry has spent three years recalculating their actuarial risk under ACA.  They will not backtrack at this late date. 

      There are more reasons why this is nothing but political nonsense, but I have run now.

      • Awen says:

        I agree, and I'll continue where he left off (I think).

        I haven't read Udall's bill, so I don't know if he addresses this, but to continue the coverage most people in the individual and small business market have is not feasible. Most of those plans do NOT provide the 10 essential services required under the ACA.

        Case in point: Home Depot (not a small business, I know). Their plan has a maximum cap of $20,000. For everything. Once you hit $20k in medical expenses you're responsible for the rest. They canceled their part-time employees' health insurance, while not ever telling anyone why, but in looking at the plan it was obviious. It doesn't meet the basics required under the ACA. I suspect most of the individual and small business plans do the same; they barely qualify as health insurance to begin with.

        Udall will not be able to persuade health insurers to ramp up their coverage to provide those 10 essential services, and his bill will be DOA in the House anyway.

    • BlueCat says:

      He does look like what central casting would come up with for a President from a western state though, doesn't he? And I don't blame him for the fact that his plan has a huge hole in that I don't see how private insurers can be forced to reinstate or keep offering plans which is the only way people can be guaranteed that they can keep their plans for now. He's just trying to find some way out of a clusterf**k  not of his making. 

      From the day Obama gave away the farm as his opening bid on negotiating the thing in the first place through the decisions not to talk about it for years even to explain it to the public, leaving the field to the GOTP to spread hysteria about it, the unkeepable promise that everyone could keep whatever insurance they liked and finally the utter failure of sufficient prep for the roll out, this was bound to be a huge mess. 

      And you know something else?   I'm not exactly shocked that reform based on conservative think tank theory may not ever work out so well for the middle and lower income folks who have to buy their insurance privately, especially since the first thing Obama surrendered was the public option. The Heritage Institute isn't exactly where I'd be looking for ways to bring healthcare coverage in the US into the 21st century, but, hey, that's just me.

      There isn't really all that much room for Udall or anyone else to find a good way to quickly fix this fiasco in practical or political terms. At least Udall is giving it his best shot and I like his stands on rights, transparency and privacy issues. The better part of a year is forever in politics so maybe this too will pass in time for the election season of 2014 to  really get rolling.  If not, that will really suck.

  8. BlueCat says:

    Here's what I don't get. How can Udall, the President or anyone else promise that legislation will allow people who want to keep their plans to keep them for one year, two or whatever? How would such legislation force insurance companies to retain or reinstate plans? Long before ACA, companies could drop plans if they wanted to. So how in the heck can any guarantees be made about private sector insurance availability? 

    Single payer, such as medicare, is the only system without these problems. Employers ought to be lobbying for it as they wouldn't have to deal with any insurance issues anymore unless they chose to offer supplements. Manufacturers ought to be lobbying for it to keep their costs down to be more competitive. Religious employers would be off the hook over providing coverage that conflicts with their beliefs so they should be lobbying for it, too.

    As far as  the ACA roll out proving that single payer would be a mess, there's no reason why it should be if medicare, which works fine, was simply expanded to cover everyone. The young and healthy would automatically be part of the system providing support for more expensive older Americans while young and receiving it from the young when they themselves get older. 

    I just don't see how this little bit of this, little bit of that system allows anyone or any legislation to make promises about what will happen with private sector insurance. At the very least, a public option should be available to compete with private insurers by offering better value for solid coverage without fear of having it pulled out from under you. If you get dropped yet have to meet a mandate it's only fair that a public option should be available as a solution.

    I have always supported single payer altogether and never thought mandate without at least a public option in the mix was going to be viable or fair at all. So far, it looks like I was right. Don't know how this gets fixed in time for 2014 and the only way we move forward to a better plan is by taking back the House and expanding in the Senate. But if it doesn't we better hope the Tea Party gets even weirder and keeps winning primaries that scare even more voters away. We need more Tancs and Bucks in all the purple states to hand more victories to more Dems. 

  9. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    The ACA is a large piece of legislation with many moving parts designed to work together.  As passed, the legislation has its benefits and flaws as does any, and the incompetent execution of healthcare.gov is a separate issue having nothing to do with the legislation itself.  Consider:

    • The ACA raises the level of Medicaid eligibilty substantially. People making above the Medicaid qualifying income are eligible for subsidies to buy policies on the exchanges.  Hospitals who traditionally have seen large numbers of uninsured have been subsidized by federal payments.  These payments are scheduled to diminish as the Medicaid population rises.

      What happened?  The SCOTUS said the Medicaid expansion was optional, so many states led by Republicans have not done it, leaving huge swaths of the poor unable to get Medicaid or subsidies, and payments slashed to their safety net hospitals.

    •  
    • States were supposed to run their own exchanges.  If they opted out, the federal government would run it for them.  In an ideal world, there would be no healthcare.gov, and each state would run its own marketplace.

    Only the blind or partisanly obtuse liars would deny that these post facto changes to how this law works will have a huge effect on the success of its implimentation. These changes were not led by Democrats.

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